Sheela Patel


SPARC, India (Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres)


Sheela Patel is the Founder-Director of the Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC), a Mumbai-based NGO that works on housing and infrastructure rights for the urban poor since 1984. Sheela is the Chair of Slum Dwellers International (SDI), a network of community-based organisations of urban poor across Africa, Asia and Latin America. She is a member of the UN Secretary General’s high level international panel on assessing and enhancing effectiveness of UN-Habitat and a member of the Adaptation Commission. After getting her Masters in Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in 1974, Sheela Patel worked at a community centre called the Nagpada Neighbourhood House and then left to set up SPARC. She has also founded and coordinated a number of national and international organisations such as Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP), an organisation that works with women’s collectives in over 600 villages in Maharashtra, the Asian Coalition of Housing Rights, and the Asian Women and Shelter Network (ACHR). She played a key role in the expansion of Mahila Milan, a federation of women collectives in slums across India. Sheela is also the founder member of Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI), an international network of poor people's organization that supports Asian and African NGOs. She is globally recognized for seeking urgent attention to issues of urban poverty, housing and infrastructure onto the radar of governments, bilateral and international agencies, foundations and other organizations. In 2000, SPARC was awarded the United Nations Human Settlement Award. Patel is a recipient of Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian award for her work on urban poverty. She has also received the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award from the Synergos Institute, a recognition of her extensive efforts to ameliorate urban poverty.


  • ISRM Global Urban Resilience Conference, Day 3: Community Engagement - 2nd December 2021