Colloquium: Gandhi is with Us, Are We with Him? Building an Economy of Nurturance

2017 Oct 06, Friday
Azim Premji University

About the Lecture

As early as 1908, in Hind Swaraj, Gandhi had argued that western civilization was heading, that is, towards greater violence, greater inequities, and an economy based on destruction of natural resources. His arguments were largely based on his concept of what constitutes a good life and good society, his concern for truth and non violence and his concern particularly for the poor. The production and consumption of more and more goods, he noted, was not a sign of progress, but rather one of ‘evil.' For him, real progress was that mode of conduct that shows to man the path of duty (to your self, society and Nature, mother Earth). Gandhi believed that western civilization if it continued on its present path of ‘progress’ would in time be self-destroyed.

So, are we for heading towards greater violence, greater inequities and destruction of resources human and natural? If no, then we are with Gandhi and Gandhi is with us. Then, let us think deeper and act meaningfully. Think with anubandh for better future. A focus on economic growth is necessary but what type of growth are we talking about. By destructive growth what do mean : over consumerism, destruction of fabric of society and relationships. growth has to be such as nurturing our self, family, society and mother Nature as they are intimately related.

In the modern economy, finance is the predominant instrument of growth. Women are workers and an important part of the economy. They use finance mainly for nurturing growth. I will share experiences with SEWA on how poor and self-employed women are building a nurturing economy at different levels, here and abroad.

About the Speaker

Born in 1933, Ela R. Bhatt, a Gandhian, is widely recognized as one of the world’s most remarkable pioneers and entrepreneurial forces in grassroots development. Known as the “gentle revolutionary,” she has dedicated her life to improving the lives of India’s poorest and most oppressed women workers. In 1972, she founded the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a trade union with more than 2 million members now. She founded SEWA Cooperative Bank in 1974 which has an outreach of 3 million women now. She was nominated a Member of the Indian Parliament Rajya Sabha by the President of India and served subsequently as Member of the Indian Planning Commission. She founded and served as Chair for Women’s World Banking, (WWB), the International Alliance of Home-based Workers (HomeNet), Street Vendors (StreetNet) and Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing, Organizing (WIEGO). She also served as a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation for a decade. She has received several awards, including Padmashree, Padmabhushan, the Ramon Magsaysay Award and the Right Livelihood Award, George Meany-Lane Kirkland Labour Rights Award by AFL-CIO, US and Légion d’honneur by France, Madrid Creatividad Award, CGAE Human Rights Award by Spain, Indira Gandhi International Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development, The Freedom from Want Medal’, by Roosevelt Institute of Netherlands. She has received honorary doctorates from Harvard, Yale, Natal, McMaster, M.S. Baroda, among others. She has published “We Are Poor but So Many” (Oxford University Press, New York, 2006) and Anubandh - Building Hundred-Mile Communities. She was recently nominated as Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapith, founded by Mahatma Gandhi in 1920 and appointed Mahatma Gandhi Chair Professorship at Panjab University and Chair of Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram, Ahmedabad.