Reema Nanavaty, is an Indian social worker, known for her humanitarian services as the head of Self-Employed Women's Association of India (SEWA). She was honoured by the Government of India, in 2013, by bestowing on her the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award, for her contributions to the field of social service.
Reema Nanavaty was born in Ahmedabad, in the Indian state of Gujarat, on 22 May 1964, and graduated in Science from the Gujarat University. Opting for a career of civil service, she passed the civil services examination (IAS). However, her stay there lasted only one year as she quit the service to take up full-time social service.
Nanavaty, upon resigning from the Indian Administrative Service, joined, in 1986, the Self-Employed Women's Association of India (SEWA), an NGO founded by Ela Bhatt, a Gandhian and social worker. She became the General Secretary of the organization in 1999 and embarked on a series of public service activities, concentrating on the village poor and extending the reach of SEWA to more districts in Gujarat. It was under her leadership, SEWA started self-help groups and a retail distribution network, Rudi, to take the goods produced by SEWA sisters to 40,000 households.
In 2001, Reema Nanavaty launched Jeevika project, in association with the Government of Gujarat and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), an initiative to bring relief to the 2001 Gujarat earthquake victims and their families. A year later, she started Shanta, a relief programme to aid the 2002 Gujarat riots victims. She has taken SEWA out of Gujarat and the activities of the organization, now, spans across the country from Jammu and Kashmir to Assam. They are also involved in war torn Afghanistan, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. Her current assignment is to nurture SEWA Trade Facilitation Centre (FTC), a wing which attends to the development of artisans in the villages.
WikiLeaks cable 41091 reveals that She told Michael S. Owen (US consul general-CG) that the organisation Self-Employed Women's Association of India was facing the "wrath" of the State government for "resisting" pressure. However, Chief Secretory of Gujarat's audit report alleged massive corruption and misuse of funds by SEWA. This led to a bitter relationship between Government of Gujarat and SEWA.
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