Social activist Ela Bhatt has been selected for the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development 2011 for empowering women in India and abroad.
An international jury chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chose the founder of NGO Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) for the award instituted by the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust.
Announcing the award, trust secretary Suman Dubey said, “Bhatt's life is a lesson in dedication and commitment, in caring for the under-privileged and weak.”
Bhatt has been selected for her “lifetime achievements in comprehensively empowering women in India and elsewhere through grassroots entrepreneurship, access to shelter, healthcare, micro-finance, micro-insurance, skills, legal services, collective bargaining power and many other means”, he said.
A labour lawyer by training, Bhatt founded the now 13-lakh-strong SEWA in 1972. She also founded the SEWA Cooperative Bank, the first women's bank in India. Bhatt is among a dozen global leaders who constitute 'The Elders', which was set up at the initiative of Nelson Mandela in 2007 to promote human rights and peace.
SEWA has even gone to Afganistan as Baagey Khazana under Bhatt. It collaborated with the erstwhile UN Development Fund for Women, which recently merged with the composite ‘UN Women’, to set up HomeNet South Asia for networking home-based workers, trade unions and NGOs.