MYTH 6: WOMEN CAN'T BE TRUSTED WITH MONEY

MYTH 6: WOMEN CAN'T BE TRUSTED WITH MONEY

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Posted
10/11/13

LOOKING BACK: Ela Bhatt, India

When asked what drove her to help poor women find economic autonomy, Ela Bhatt credits the society that shaped her early years. "I grew up in a time around India's independence," she said. "It was a heady and idealistic time, and we were all infected with a spirit of optimism."

That newfound energy helped Bhatt break barriers — first becoming a lawyer, defending textile union workers, and then becoming the founder of several groups that have uplifted poor women's economic standing. They include the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) — India's largest trade union with more than 1.2 million members — as well as the All India Association of Micro Finance Institutions and the Women's World Bank.

"From social work to factories, agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, dairies, hand looming, health care, childcare, handicrafts, providing shelter — all the employment sectors of any society — that is where women are …" she said.

Yet Bhatt, a mother of two, understood how too many of the world's women were destitute — and often unable to shape their own financial destiny. As she practiced law — a rarity for women at the time — she saw the desperation and hopelessness of her clients. "The injustice was flagrant, and that was what hurt the most. That was why and how the working poor remained poor, how they had no recognition, no vote, no policies … no budgets to provide support," she said. "That tugged at my heart."

It also drove her to create SEWA, which helps women in three key realms: negotiating with employers, contractors and police; organizing strikes and filing court cases; and forming alliances and partnerships. Now a member of The Elders, an elite group founded by Nelson Mandela to support the shared interests of humanity, Bhatt has continued to strengthen her mission to help women help themselves.

"The spider climbs, falls but does not lose hope," Bhatt once wrote. "She is not alone."

LOOK FORWARD

There are risks in every action. Every success has the seed of some failure. It is how you go about it. That is the real challenge.

- Ela Bhatt

SOURCES: 1 “A Discussion with Ela Bhatt,” May 27, 2010, Katherine Marshall of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs. 2 “The Elders,”www.theelders.org. 3 Bhatt, Ela, We Are Poor But So Many – The Story of Self-Employed Women In India; Nov. 2005. Credit Photo: © 2006 The Associated Press/David Karp.     

© 2006 The Associated Press/David Karp

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