Ela Bhatt to Receive Radcliffe Institute Medal

Gentle Revolutionary to Deliver Keynote at Radcliffe Day on May 27
May 24, 2011

Karla Strobel

Cambridge, Mass.—The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study announced that Ela Bhatt, founder of the Self Employed Women’s Association, will be awarded the 2011 Radcliffe Institute Medal. On Radcliffe Day, more than 400 alumnae/i, fellows, and friends will celebrate the commitment at the Radcliffe Institute to the pursuit of knowledge—and the application of that knowledge to issues that affect our world—during a morning discussion about approaches to changing the world and a luncheon honoring one of the world’s foremost leaders of social change.

Each year during Harvard Commencement week, the Radcliffe Institute honors an individual whose life and work have substantially and positively influenced society. This year—in which the developing world was a focus of many of the Institute’s events—the Radcliffe Institute Medal recipient is Ela Bhatt, who, as the founder of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) of India, has improved the self-sufficiency of more than one million women. SEWA began as a women’s trade union and has expanded to provide microloans, health and life insurance, and childcare, all overseen by more than 100 women-run cooperatives. Last year, membership reached 1.2 million.

“With gratitude, we bestow our highest honor on a woman who has worked tirelessly for social change for more than four decades. Her ideas have spread across the developing world, transforming theory and practice, and improving the lives of millions of women and their families,” said Dean Barbara J. Grosz. “Ela Bhatt epitomizes the Institute’s commitment to advancing knowledge and applying it to improve the world.”

After Dean Barbara J. Grosz presents the Radcliffe Institute Medal, Ela Bhatt will address the Radcliffe community to share her ideas about moving toward a more equitable and just world.

In addition to celebrating Radcliffe Institute Medalist Ela Bhatt, Radcliffe Day 2011 features “Making a World of Difference,” a panel discussion with leading women scholars, authors, and practitioners who are pursuing different and effective ways to change the world and share a connection to the multidisciplinary community at the Radcliffe Institute:

Panel moderator Swanee Hunt is the Eleanor Roosevelt Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School; president of the Hunt Alternatives Fund; and chair of the Institute for Inclusive Security. She advances innovative approaches to social change—including inclusive peace and security processes, and inspiring women to political leadership—and will release her third book this fall, Worlds Apart: Bosnian Lessons for Global Security. Hunt participated in the Institute’s Driving Change, Shaping Lives conference earlier this year.

As director of the Center for Adolescent Health & the Law, Abigail English ’71, RI ’11 focuses on the needs of vulnerable young people, including adolescents’ access to comprehensive, affordable health care. This year, she is the Frieda L. Miller Fellow at Radcliffe Institute, where she researched the worldwide problem of sexual exploitation and trafficking of adolescents.

Lani Guinier ’71 became the first woman of color appointed to a tenured professorship at Harvard Law School and is now Bennett Boskey Professor of Law. Through her work, books, and scholarly writing, Guinier addresses issues of race, gender, and democratic decision-making and seeks new ways of approaching affirmative action.

Nancy E. Hill RI ’11 is the Suzanne Young Murray Professor at the Radcliffe Institute and a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She researches cultural, economic, and community influences on family socialization patterns that shape child and adolescent development, helping to identify policy and program interventions that enhance children’s chances of reaching their potential.

Radcliffe Day—which celebrates achievement, excellence, and innovation—upholds the defining values of the College and highlights the Institute’s commitment to multidisciplinary work and advanced study.

About the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University is a scholarly community where individuals pursue advanced work across a wide range of academic disciplines, professions, and creative arts. Within this broad purpose, the Institute sustains a continuing commitment to the study of women, gender, and society. For more information, please visit www.radcliffe.edu.

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