Clipped from: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/us-hillary-clinton-elaben-bhatt-meet-8424343/
Clinton arrives in Ahmedabad on Feb 5. She will visit SEWA and Bhatt’s home, and inaugurate a memorial in Lokmanya Tilak Baug. In 1995, Clinton described Bhatt as a “soft-spoken visionary whose work is infused with the ideals of Gandhi”.
Elaben Bhatt (left) and Hillary Clinton (centre) during Clinton’s visit to Gujarat in 1995. (Express Photo)
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be on a three-day tour of Gujarat beginning Sunday (February 5), mainly to pay respects to the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) founder Elaben Bhatt who passed away on November 2 last year.
Hillary Clinton and SEWA
The former US First lady had known Elaben Bhatt from before the time her husband Bill Clinton was elected President in 1993. They were introduced by the former Senator from New York Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whom Hillary succeeded as Senator (in 2001), SEWA Director Reema Nanavaty said. Clinton first got an experience of SEWA’s work in Mumbai, when she visited Hansiba, the SEWA clothing line store, Nanavaty said.
Clinton first visited SEWA in Ahmedabad in 1995 as First Lady. She visited SEWA, which was founded as a trade union by Bhatt, in Ahmedabad, to see how it had empowered poor women to take control of their future and to make their own and their families’ lives better.
Clinton first visited SEWA in Ahmedabad in 1995 as First Lady. She visited SEWA, which was founded as a trade union by Bhatt, in Ahmedabad, to see how it had empowered poor women to take control of their future and to make their own and their families’ lives better. (Express Photo)
In a speech delivered at the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation in New Delhi, she described Bhatt as a “soft-spoken visionary whose work is infused with the ideals of Gandhi”.
“She saw Elaben as a role model, while Elaben saw her as a powerful woman leader,” Nanavaty said.
Bhatt convinced Clinton about the importance of Home Based Workers (HBW), helping to push their case at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention that now also recognises SEWA as an organisation advocating HBWs.
Clinton again visited SEWA in 2018, and met with its members. That was when she was invited to be a part of its celebration of 50 years, “and she has kept the promise”, Nanavaty said.Hillary Clinton had visited SEWA in 2018, and met with its members. (Express Photo)
Meeting with salt pan workers
On February 5, Clinton will visit the Little Rann of Kutch to meet with salt pan workers. SEWA has helped these workers switch from the polluting diesel pumps to solar and solar hybrid pumps, which has earned them carbon credits.
Clinton will then visit the Rudi resource centre, which is the agro commodities marketing arm of SEWA, at Dhrangadhra in Surendranagar district. Here she will address some 500-600 SEWA women members and announce the Global Climate Resilience Fund for women, Nanavaty said.
On the morning of February 7, Clinton will visit IIT-Gandhinagar before concluding her Gujarat tour.
The Elaben Bhatt memorial
Clinton will first visit Bhatt’s home in Ahmedabad to pay her respects to the family, and then the SEWA Reception Centre in Ellisbridge area where the organisation was first founded.
Across the road from the reception centre is the erstwhile Victoria Garden, now called Lokmanya Tilak Baug, where on April 12, 1972, Elaben Bhatt had held the first meeting with a few women street vendors and home-based workers that led to the foundation of SEWA as a trade union. Bhatt had planted a banyan tree in this garden on April 12 last year, to commemorate 50 years of the organisation she founded. The garden now has a memorial which will be dedicated by Clinton.
“Secretary Clinton who will inaugurate this memorial will be a part of the celebrations of not only the 50 years of SEWA but of the 75 years of Indian Independence”, Nanavaty said. Ahmedabad-based architect Aniket Bhagwat, who re-designed the garden under the aegis of the Torrent Group’s UN Mehta Foundation (UNM) said, “The memorial by the UNM Foundation and Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, is an open book made of red sandstone, has a note on Elaben in English and Gujarati.”
The garden itself has historical milestones. It was built to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897.
A note from the UNM foundation says that on January 7, 1910, a marble statue of Queen Victoria, sculpted by the renowned artist H G Mhatre, was unveiled at the garden in the honour of Queen Victoria. “Since then this garden has been a witness to the city’s history and is a marker of time. On December 14th, 1917, it saw a huge celebration, as the city recovered from a deadly plague”, the note says.
In 1929, Mahatma Gandhi unveiled a statue of Lokmanya Tilak at the Victoria Garden made by artist M K Kolhatkar. The Park also saw installation of a memorial to commemorate the Mahagujarat Movement of 1956, according to the note.