Indien: Radha Bhatt

Radha Bhatt's work in the picturesque but poor Himalayan foothills is a canny combination of progressive ideas and Gandhian ideals-and they have functioned wonderfully.

— Radha Bhatt

From protesting against the raw deal uneducated women in the Uttaranchal Himalayas are handed out to becoming one of the best known social and political activists in the country-that has been Radha Bhatt's journey over the past 70-odd years. Along the way, she has tackled alcoholism among men in Uttaranchal, the empowerment of women, the Chipko (tree-hugging) movement, open mining on the fragile Uttaranchal highlands, and has been part of the nationwide protest against big dams.

Life in the mountains around the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttaranchal is tough. When Radha Bhatt was born 70-odd years ago, the condition of women in the region was abysmal. Education was out of the question and, for married women, alcoholism among men was a constant vice that needed to be negotiated. Although born into a repressive social milieu, Radha was made of different stuff, and refused to agree when her parents wanted to marry her off at 16. She also chose to associate herself with Lakshmi Ashram, a local organization working for the uplift of women in the region. On the one hand, Radha had her own constructive and progressive ideas, on the other, she had the organization's Gandhian principles to help her along. She changed the mindsets of the women she came in contact with, educating, enlightening, and empowering them. And her work did not end just with the women; girl-children, grown-up men-everyone came under her influence. But Radha's life was not restricted to the foothills of the Himalayas, or to rural women. She was actively involved in organizing more than seven women's protests against the sale and consumption of liquor. She has also been one of the most important faces of the Chipko movement aimed at saving the Himalayan forests. Her efforts, along with those of many others, helped prevent landslides in more than 50 villages of the region. Radha's outstanding work led to her receiving the Indira Priyadarshini Environment Award. She has also focused her attention on open mining on the fragile highlands in the Uttaranchal Himalayas, as well as the protests against big dams. Furthermore, Radha is involved with the Kasturba National Memorial Trust, an organization mainly concerned with training rural women for voluntary services.

Kasturba National Memorial Trust (KNMT)