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The prestigious Harvard University will honour Ela Bhatt, founder of the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), for her "life and work" that has had a "significant impact on society" .

Bhatt (77), whose trade union has helped over a million women in India gain access to opportunities for themselves and their families, will be awarded the Radcliffe Institute Medal by Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

She would be presented the medal , awarded annually to individuals who have substantially and positively influenced society, on Radcliffe Day on May 27. Some of the illustrious past winners include Toni Morrison in 2007, Margaret Atwood in 2003, Billie Jean King in 2002 and Alice Walker in 1992.

"The Radcliffe Institute is proud to honour her this year, in which gender in the developing world is one of its dominant themes," the Institute said.

Recipient of several prestigious awards, Ela Bhatt founded SEWA in 1972. Conceived as a women's trade union, SEWA has grown into an NGO that offers micro-lending , health and life insurance and child care — all overseen by more than a hundred women-run cooperatives.

In January 2010, SEWA membership had reached 1.2 million.

Bhatt has been recognised for her long battle for social justice. In November last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had honoured Bhatt with the Global Fairness Initiative Award for helping move more than a million poor women in India to a position of dignity and independence.

Radcliffe Day is the Institute's annual celebration of women, as well as the alumnae and fellows of Radcliffe College and the Radcliffe Institute.

It is traditionally held on the day after Harvard's commencement.

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 the society.


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