Former first lady of the US Hillary Clinton recently visited the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), an organisation of promoting poor, self-employed women workers, based in Ahmedabad. She was accompanied by ace designer Anita Dongre.
Clinton was recently in India to attend the wedding celebration of business tycoon Mukesh Ambani and Nita Ambani’s daughter Isha Ambani and Piramal Group of Industries CEO Anand Piramal.
Following Ambani’s pre-wedding celebration in Udaipur, the former first lady of US was seen attending the event in Ahmadabad.
Clinton interacted with the women working at the trade union and inspired, motivated and praised the women.
On Saturday, Clinton took to her social media account to share the inspiring story of Ela Bhatt, who is the founder of SEWA. SEWA is an organisation that has been helping women by providing them small loans and taken the charge of making each of its members literate since 1972.
The loans provided to those women helped them to build up their own business and run their families.
In 1995, Hillary had visited their headquarters in Ahmedabad for the first time. In that period SEWA has its 140,000 members included some of the poorest women in India with the least access to education.
Hillary emphasised that ‘few of them even lived behind ‘purdah’ till their husbands passed away.’ SEWA had given ‘micro-loans’ to many helpless women those who were poor and education-deprived. Those women had struggled day-to-day to support their family.
SEWA gave them lessons in running small shops and business. And there is how the former first lady of US got the idea of ‘micro-loans’, as she mentioned in her post that “we now think of this model as ‘micro-loans.’ Ela and SEWA have always been ahead of their time.”
On her first visit to SEWA, thousands of women in different colour saris from the association shared their life experiences with her. They told Clinton how the organisation has changed their lives by giving them freedom and opportunity. They even sung the song ‘We Shall Overcome’ in ‘Gujarati’ for the former US Secretary of State.
Since then Hillary Clinton stayed in touch with Ela and again she got a chance to visit the organisation back in 2009 during her India tour. According to her post, in that same year she visited SEWA’s new retail shop in Mumbai and that time the organization had just over a million of members.
After 23 years of her first visit to SEWA, this time too Clinton didn’t miss the chance to revisit the place. And the achievement is – they are now two million in members.
There are two or three generations of SEWA women, those who are not only working to improve their own lives only, in fact they are successfully running their family, lifting up their community, business and the country too.
In her Insta-post, Clinton upheld Ela’s inspiring work, saying “Ela’s work is fundamentally about fairness,” as Ela’s effort has shaped up the organization and helped millions of women to achieve their dreams through SEWA.
Read Hillary Clinton’s Instagram post here:
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Back in 1995, I met a woman named Ela Bhatt in India who was already 20 years in to a revolutionary experiment. In 1972, she started an organization to give women small loans that could help them find fulfillment in their work and contribute to their family’s well-being. It was called the Self-Employed Women's Association, or SEWA. On my first visit to their headquarters in Ahmedabad in 1995, SEWA's 140,000 members included some of the poorest women in India with the least access to education. Some had lived in purdah until their husbands died, became disabled, or left. Many had struggled day to day to support their families. SEWA offered the women small loans to enable them to earn their own income, taught them how to read, and gave them lessons in running small shops and businesses. We now think of this model as "microloans." Ela and SEWA have always been ahead of their time. On that first visit, I'll never forget the sight of thousands of women in every color of sari sharing how SEWA had changed their lives by giving them freedom and opportunity. When we finished talking, the women sang “We Shall Overcome” in Gujarati. Ela and I stayed in touch, and I've had the chance to see the organization and its impact grow even larger over the years. When I visited SEWA's new retail shop in Mumbai in 2009, the organization had just over a million members. On a trip to India this week, I had the chance to visit Ela and the women of SEWA in the same place I first visited 23 years ago. Now they're two million members strong and there are two or three generations of SEWA women, all of whom are working to improve not only their own lives but also to lift up their families, their communities, and their country. Once again, when we finished talking, the women sang “We Shall Overcome." Ela’s work is fundamentally about fairness. Every person should have the chance to achieve his or her dreams and make the most of their God-given potential—no matter how rich or poor and no matter whether they work in a factory or a home or on the side of a road. I'm so inspired by these women and I can't wait to see all they continue to overcome and achieve.