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SHARDA BEN MEHTA (1882–1970)

Sharda Mehta was a Gandhian social worker. She was born in 1882 in Gujarat into a high caste family and married to Dr Sumant Mehta in 1898. Her husband was very supportive of her education, and she graduated along with her sister in 1901, the two thus becoming Gujarat’s first woman graduates. She was very influenced by Gandhiji. In 1917 she organised the people against the girmitia system of forced labour. She worked for Gandhiji’s national weekly Navjivan in 1919. She realised that women have to be economically self-reliant to be empowered. Angering the orthodox of her caste, she sheltered and brought up a Hindu child-widow. In 1930 she established a khadi mandir and ran her husband’s ashram near Ahmedabad, and in 1934 started a pioneering co-operative store called ‘Apna Ghar Ki Dukan’. In 1934 she established the Jyoti Sangh to undertake welfare activities for women. She held many important posts and wrote a number of books in Gujarati, including a life of Florence Nightingale, and translated many works.
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