The 11th Memorial Lecture

Every year, since its inception, the Justice Sunanda Bhandare Foundation invites an eminent person to deliver a lecture on the subject of women and human rights. Smt. Ela R. Bhatt, Founder, SEWA (Self Employed Women Association) and former Member of Parliament delivered the Eleventh Justice Sunanda Bhandare Memorial Lecture. Smt. Ela Bhatt spoke on "WOMEN MONEY, POWER" at the India Habitat Centre on Tuesday, 18th October, 2005. Hon'ble Shri Justice R.C. Lahoti, Chief Justice of India was the Chief Guest and the function was presided over by Hon'ble Shri Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, the Judge, Supreme Court of India.

Smt. Ela Bhatt started with her experience which goes back to 1986 in a small village in Bengal where a tiny shrunken women said to her "kaaj naahi, kaaj kori maroo" meaning, " I have no work, but the grind of work is killing me", This proved that from dawn to dusk she toils but she feels that she has no work and she is ever by searching for work. Thus women's work today in India has little or no value.

She expanded the scheme of her lecture by saying that women's employment must be a gainful employment. Among the small assets she spoke of tangible assets, cash saving, or silver jewelry but emphasized that the intangible assets are more noteworthy. Thus education is an asset that few possess. Children are an enormous asset, husband that does not have a drinking problem is an asset, in-laws that will allow a woman to work outside the home are an asset, the goodwill of one's caste is an asset. She elaborately dealt with how SEWA expanded in giving micro credit. She wanted to get over the general rule for women that there is no money without work but there is plently of work without money. She showed how SEWA provided access to market infrastructure as well as access to technology, information, education, Knowledge and skills like accountancy, management, planning and marketing to women.

SEWA Bank's Daily Saving Scheme is the most popular. It allows women to save very small amounts for an extended period of time without stress of saving for monthly bulk deposits. All these deposits are collected at a small Centre in the slums where women live or in the market where they work. After one year they have the option of withdrawing their savings, or of transferring them becomes a regular habit. This helps them to overtake their barrier in which they are struck in the cycle of earning and spending on a daily basis.

Regular classes are conducted of about 30 women every week including home-based workers, vendors and manual labourers to advise them to plan their finances. She said that essentially, money is power, but collective and organized strength is a bigger power.

SEWA cooperatives have come together provided training and policy support as well as marketing services to its members. For poor women, not only to be beneficiaries of money but also be managers and owners and owners of it, generates the actual power. She asserted that for a group that comprises 90% of the economy there should still be space to grow and develop, which is sadly lacking. She insisted that organizations of poor women have led the process to come out of poverty, but then the NGOs, outside funders and the governments have to play a crucial supportive role to help them continue. Her message was clear that India cannot be the top nations of the world without "Women, Money,Power"