Reema Nanavaty is a social worker and one of the leaders of the Self-Employed Women's Association of India (SEWA). She was honored by the Government of India, in 2013, by bestowing her the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award, for her contributions in the field of social services.
What is your favourite word?
There is a word in Gujarat-Shikhu Chu that means I am learning. I believe that life is a journey, which gives us enormous opportunities to learn. It is all about what you make out of it.
What was the moment in your life that made you Blossom into the person you are today?
Once, I was travelling with a woman from the SEWA, who suddenly gave me a small piece of paper with a number written on it. She said that it was her new telephone number. I was surprised because I knew her meagre income would not support this. I wondered about the decision to invest her little income into a telephone. Then, she explained the thread that was required for her embroidery works. Every time she planned to buy one, she had to wait for the bus to hop to the destination. At times it would be cancelled, or by the time she reaches, the concerned person would have left for other work. Often, she came back home unfinished. And that’s why she invested in the telephone so she can check the status, plan her visits wisely at just one dial. She said it saved her a lot of time and money. Now that was something plain yet, smart choice and vision. That incident made me re-think the ways we look at people, especially the underprivileged. If we work with an open mind towards development, the possibilities are endless.
What would you want the young boys & girls to learn from your journey?
I work along and on the women from rural villages. Despite all the hardships they face, which include water scarcity, lack of electricity, and unemployment, they always welcome us with a warm smile. They are content with what they have, and they innovate to cope. Their optimism inspires and boosts the strength in me. It makes me wonder about our short- temper. We easily complain about the little things, like the delayed meetings or the network issues. But look at these women who have nothing, yet their positive perspective of life is something we need to learn.