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Elaben Bhatt: Prominent Gandhian, founder of SEWA passes away aged 89


Elaben Bhatt, founder of Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and renowned Gandhian, passed away on Wednesday in Ahmedabad after a brief period of illness. She was 89 years old.

Bhatt was a qualified lawyer and had served as the chairperson of the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust (SAPMT) in the past.

Bhatt was born in 1933 in Surat and completed her schooling at the Sarwajanik Girls High School. She then went to MTB Arts College for her graduation.

After obtaining her law degree in 1954, she joined the Textile Labour Association (TLA) in 1955. TLA was formed in 1920 by .

She was among the foremost Gandhians of India. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, Ela founded SEWA in 1972 which today has a membership of over 2 million self-employed women across 18 states in India.

She later founded the Women’s World Banking (WWB), a network of microfinance institutions. Between 1984 and 1988, she was the chairperson of WWB. At one time, she also served as the advisor to the World Bank.

She also served as a Rajya Sabha MP till 1989.

Bhatt was appointed as the chancellor of the Gujarat Vidyapith, which was also founded by Gandhi. But in 2022, she resigned from the post.

In 1985, she received India’s fourth-highest civilian honour, Padma Shri. Subsequently, in 1986 she won the third-highest civilian honour, Padma Bhushan. In 2011, for her efforts in empowering women through entrepreneurship, Bhatt received the Gandhi Peace Prize.

In 1977, Bhatt was also awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership.

Prime minister Narendra Modi condoled her death.

“Sad to know about the death of Elaben Bhatt. She will be remembered long for her work for the promotion of women empowerment, social service and education among the youth. Condolences to her family members and admirers,” Modi tweeted in Gujarati.

(With PTI inputs)


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