US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has hailed Indias eminent social activist Ela Bhatt as one of her heroines for her pioneering work in empowering women.
I have a lot of heroes and heroines around the world, Clinton said on Thursday,adding that one of them is Ela Bhatt,who started an organisation called the Self-Employed Womens Association (SEWA) in India many years ago.
She was a very well-educated woman who had the options available to those in her class with her intellectual ability,but she chose to devote her life to organising the poorest of the poor,women who worked in fields,who sold vegetables,who were domestics,who struggled to eke out a living for themselves and their families,women who were considered the last to eat,the least important, Clinton said.
When I first visited her,as First Lady,in India,she took me to a big gathering where women had come from all over the region. Some of them had walked for 24 hours. And these were such beautiful women,brightly coloured saris,beautiful chiselled features. And they were part of SEWA, Clinton said.
Clinton said the women of SEWA showed the courage to stand up to their abusive husbands and mother-in-laws on the basis of their income,adding that the latter are working to enhance the quality of life for their own families.
Bhatt (78),who is from Ahmedabad,was awarded Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1985,and the Padma Bhushan in 1986. She was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 1977 and the Right Livelihood Award in 1984.
On November 2010,US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton honoured Bhatt with the Global Fairness Initiative Award for helping move more than a million poor women in India to a position of dignity and independence.