Self Employed Women’s Association and Ela Bhatt

  • IASbaba
  • November 8, 2022
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History and Art and Culture
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Context: Elaben Bhatt, The Gandhian, SEWA founder, and women’s empowerment activist dies.

About Ela Bhatt:

  • She was known as the “Gentle Revolutionary” who changed the lives of lakhs of women through her organisation, providing them with microloans for five decades.
  • She founded the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in 1972.
  • She also headed the women’s wing of Majoor Mahajan Sangh-the Textile Labour Association founded by Anasuya Sarabhai and Mahatma Gandhi.
  • She was the chairperson of the Sabarmati Ashram Memorial and Preservation Trust, also co-founded the Women’s World Banking, a global network of microfinance organisations, of which she was chairperson from 1984 to 1988.
  • She was also nominated to Rajya Sabha, and was a member of the Planning Commission.
  • She had also acted as an advisor to organisations like the World Bank.
  • In 2007, she joined the Elders, a group of world leaders founded by Nelson Mandela to promote human rights and peace.
  • She was a prodigious writer who penned in Anasuya, our Gujarati newsletter, a play on street vendors. One of her famous book was “We are Poor but We are Many”.
  • She was a recipient of the Padma Bhushan, Ramon Magsaysay Award and Indira Gandhi International Prize for Peace among many other awards.

About Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA):

  • SEWA was born out of the Textile Labour Association (TLA) founded by Anasuya Sarabhai and Mahatma Gandhi in 1920 but it could not register as a trade union until 1972 because its members did not have an “employer” and were thus not seen as workers.
  • In 1981, after the anti-reservation riots in which the Bhatts were targeted for supporting quotas for Dalits in medical education, the TLA broke up with SEWA.
  • As early as in 1974, SEWA Bank was established to provide small loans to poor women.
  • It is an initiative that was recognised by the International Labour Organisation as a microfinance movement.
  • With an annual membership fee of just Rs 10, SEWA allows anyone who is self-employed to become a member.
  • Its network is spread across 18 Indian states, in other countries of South Asia, in South Africa, and Latin America.
  • It simultaneously provided employment to women and promoted cooperative production, consumption and marketing of textiles which constituted the core of India’s industrialisation.
  • The Unorganised Workers Social Security Act (2008), the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (2011), and the Street Vendors Act (2014), are seen as successes of SEWA’s struggle.
  • The PM Street Vendors Aatmanirbhar Nidhi (PM-SVANidhi) scheme is seen as being inspired by SEWA’s microfinance model.
  • During the pandemic, SEWA launched Anubandh, an e-commerce platform to connect sellers with buyers, to keep kitchen fires burning through the lockdowns.
    • The efforts of SEWA to change the lives of over 2.1 million members and many more around the world have long been recognised as a model for the world.

Source: Indian Express

Previous Year Question

Q.1) Who among the following is associated with ‘Songs from Prison’, a translation of ancient Indian religious lyrics in English?  (2021)

  1. Bal Gangadhar Tilak
  2. Jawaharlal Nehru
  3. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
  4. Sarojini Naidu


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