On a visit to India that saw her attend billionaire Mukesh Ambani's daughter Isha Ambani's wedding, Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shared the inspiring story of a woman she first met in 1995 and had a chance to reconnect with 23 years later.
Ela Bhatt founded SEWA (Self-Employed Women's Association) in 1972 that helped women with small loans. These loans helped many Indian women find their feet and help their families. Ms Clinton said she first met Ms Bhatt in 1995 at their Ahmedabad headquarters.
With 14,000 members the organization was growing. All the women came from extremely poor families, some were disabled and many were abandoned by their husbands.
Not only did the organization help them to earn money but also taught them to read and gave them business lessons, Ms Clinton said. Calling the model as "microloans" she said Ms Bhatt and SEWA "have always been ahead of their time."
Ms Clinton described how moved she was with the thousands of women sharing their experiences of how SEWA had "changed their lives with freedom and opportunity".
The organization grew to a million members in 2009 and now the number has doubled. When Ms Clinton visited them in 1995 and this year, the woman sang "we shall overcome" in Gujarati.
Hillary Clinton wrote how proud she was of SEWA and as she was in touch with Ms Bhatt these years, she has had the chance to see the organization and its impact grow even larger over the years. Read the full post here:
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.
She ends her post with a few empowering sentences which say, "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."