The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) celebrates and expresses its gratitude to the Niwano Peace Foundation for its decision to award its annual "Niwano Peace Prize" to Ms. Ela Ramesh Bhatt. In selecting Ms. Bhatt as an awardee for 2010, the Peace Prize Committee said she is "an inspiration to all of us with her commitment to uplifting the downtrodden by literally giving them the tools to be the authors of their own destiny."
Ms. Bhatt is the founder of the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA)—which has mobilized more than 1.2 million women in India into a labor union and social movement that effectively fights against poverty, oppression, and injustice through an integrated approach including Organizing, Member Education, and Cooperative Banking. Ms. Bhatt is a member of The Elders, and has received many awards for her work including the Ramon Magsaysay Award and France's Legion d'honneur.
The Niwano Peace Prize was established in 1983 to honor and encourage individuals and organizations that have contributed significantly to inter-religious understanding and cooperation, thereby furthering the cause of world peace. The prize is named in honor of the founder and first president of the lay Buddhist organization Rissho Kosei-kai, Nikkyo Niwano.
The UUA has also been a strong ally of SEWA and Ms. Bhatt for 25 years through the UU Holdeen India Program (UUHIP). The UUA was honored to introduce representatives from our historic interfaith partner, Rissho Kosei-kai, to SEWA leaders during a visit organized by UUHIP director, Ms. Kathy Sreedhar in 2000.
Upon learning of the 2010 award UUA President Peter Morales communicated his profound gratitude, "I am delighted that our Rissho Kosei-kai colleagues have chosen to honor and support the extraordinary work of Ela Bhatt. This is an example of extraordinary generosity in support of outstanding work to advance human dignity."