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Courtesy of Radcliffe Institute
Ela Bhatt

Activist and entrepreneur Ela R. Bhatt, founder of the Self Employed Women’s Association in India and the Indian School of Micro-finance for Women, will speak to guests and receive the Radcliffe Medal during the Radcliffe Day luncheon on May 27. The association began as a women’s trade union in 1972, but has since evolved into a more comprehensive organization that also offers insurance, small loans, child care, and other critical services to support poor women laborers. SEWA operates more than 100 women-run cooperatives with about 1.25 million members.

Bhatt started out as a lawyer with the Textile Labour Association, founded by Mahatma Gandhi, with whom her grandparents had worked, and quickly became focused on the “invisible” home-based women workers, realizing that “although 80 percent of the women in India were economically active, they were outside the purview of legislation.” Bhatt is also a former member of the Indian Parliament (1986-1989).