Ela Bhatt conferred Japan's Niwano Peace Prize

Ela Bhatt conferred Japan's Niwano Peace Prize

At a ceremony here on Thursday, the 73-year-old social worker, whose organisation works for the uplift of 1.2 million women each day, received a medal, an award certificate and a cash prize of 20 million yen, around $215,000 or Rs.1.1 crore.

"Ela Bhatt is an inspiration to all of us with her commitment to uplifting the downtrodden by literally giving them the tools to become the authors of their own destiny," said the Niwano Peace Foundation, while conferring its 27th peace prize.

The Niwano Peace Prize was established in 1983 to honour individuals and organisations for contributing significantly to inter-religious understanding and cooperation, which furthers the cause of world peace.

The foundation, which instituted the prize, promotes research and other activities based on a religious spirit, and serves the cause of peace in such fields as education, science, religion and philosophy.

To avoid undue emphasis on any particular religion or region, nominations for the prize are solicited from some 700 people and organisations, representing 125 countries.
Accepting the prize, Bhatt said her philosophy can be symbolized by three simple words -- women, work and peace -- and that was what her organisation, which translates into "service" in hindi, was all about.

"Sewa is a local struggle but it has to meet global questions such as securing work for poor women and realizing world peace. In that sense, the prize is a challenge for us," she said.

Bhatt further emphasised that the challenge she spoke about was to see how Sewa could meet the challenges in Darfur, Afghanistan or Sri Lanka and create jobs for women that would create the right environment for peace.

Born Sep 7, 1933 in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Bhatt is a lawyer by training. She is respected the world over as a leader of cooperative movement and micro-finance. She is also a co-founder of Women's World Banking and a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation.
Among the numerous awards, she was conferred the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1985, and the Padma Bhushan in 1986. She was also awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 1977 and the Right Livelihood Award in 1984.