Ela Bhatt

Ela Bhatt

Director, Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA)

A former lawyer and social worker, Ela Bhatt launched the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) – a trade union of self-employed women workers in the unorganized sector, in Ahmedabad in 1972. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and with a goal to organise women workers and their families towards economic self-reliance, SEWA now has a membership of over 1.2 million women workers in nine states of India.

Ela Bhatt also founded the SEWA Cooperative Bank in 1974 and subsequently organised the International Alliance of Home-based Workers (HomeNet), Street Vendors (StreetNet) and Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing Organizing (WIEGO).

A graduate of Gujarat University, Bhatt has served as a member of the Indian Parliament, as a member of the Planning Commission of India, and as chair of the National Commission on Self-Employed Women. She has received honorary doctorates from Harvard, Yale, the University of Natal (Durban), and other academic institutions. She is also a member of the board of trustees of the Rockefeller Foundation. She authored several books including ‘We Are Poor but So Many: the Story of Self-Employed Women in India’ (2005), ‘Grind of Work’ (1989) and ‘Profiles of Self-Employed Women’ (1975).

Last Updated: 02/08/2011 07:02 AM