Ela Bhatt, founder of Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), passed away on Wednesday at age 89.

The civil rights leader was born on 7 September 7 1933 in Ahmedabad. “I grew up in the time around India’s independence, in the aura of a country fighting for its freedom. It was a heady and idealistic time.”

Instrumental in shaping women’s and worker’s rights in India, she received many awards through her life, including the Padma Bhushan.

She founded SEWA in 1972 for women working in India’s ‘informal’ economy to gain equity and justice. As of 2022, it has 2 million members across the nation.

Ela was also a member of The Elders, an international alliance of human rights and peace activists brought together by Nelson Mandela.

“We…are looking for self reliance, and that’s how we should measure success. I don’t much like the word ‘empowerment’, but self-reliance is the foundation of SEWA’s approach,” she once said.