Smt. Sheela Patel is the founder Director of the Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC), an NGO that has been working since 1984 to support community organizations of the urban poor in their efforts to access secure housing and Basic amenities and seek their right to the city. SPARC came into existence to address the problems of pavement dwellers, the poorest of the poor in the city of Mumbai, who were not recognized as legitimate citizens by public authorities. SPARC has been working in alliance with two Community Based Organizations – National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF) and Mahila Milan (women’s collectives in slums) that are active in 70 cities in different states of India. Since 1999, she has also been Secretary and Chief Executive of SPARC Samudaya Nirman Sahayak (SSNS), a non-profit company set up to assist slum communities take on construction projects in cities to provide slum dwellers to build homes and sanitation for themselves . She is a founder of Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI), an international network of poor people’s organizations and the NGOs that support them in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and is currently its Chairperson.
Smt. Patel is widely recognized – nationally and internationally – for seeking urgent attention to the issues of urban poverty, housing and infrastructure onto the radar of governments, bilateral and international agencies, foundations and other organizations. In addition, SPARC pioneered the experiment of building the capacity of poor people’s organizations so that they could negotiate their rights at different levels. This has been considered a new developmental model.
In 2000, she received the United Nations Habitat Award
In 2006, she received Outstanding Contribution towards Mumbai Vision 2015 by Observer Research Foundation
In 2009, she received David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award along with Mr.Kofi Anan.
In 2011, she was conferred with the prestigious award of Padmashree on the eve of Republic day of India.