The Mahatma of Shramjeevi: Ela Bhatt, the ‘Personal Hero’ of millions of workers

The Grande Dame of the informal sector, a gentle revolutionary and a Gandhian at heart, lives on as a personal hero of millions of workers, reformers, and street vendors across the country.

Ela Bhatt, lovingly referred to as ‘ben,’ or sister, by millions of women across the world, was a pioneer who redefined the concept of empowerment, especially for the ‘invisible’ labour force. Ela ben devoted herself to the cause of sustaining the voice, visibility, and validation of the approximately 2.1 million informal women workers through Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA).

Ela ben was a philanthropist, women’s rights activist, lawyer, and gentle leader. She believed in empowering the social position of every woman in the workforce. Her message was not loud, yet it was powerful enough to be heard for generations, in the echoes of ‘self-reliance’ and ‘economic empowerment’ of women. Ela ben believed and strongly advocated that empowerment is a constant opportunity to practice self-confidence which leads to ‘Azadi’ or freedom. A worker attains true freedom only when they have the opportunity to grow and earn their livelihood. 

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