U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, currently on a tour of Asia, visited in Mumbai, India, with representatives of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a longtime partner of the Unitarian Universalist Holdeen India Program (UUHIP).
Secretary Clinton gathered with SEWA General Secretary Reema Nanavaty, Mona Dave, SEWA’s CEO, and Ela Bhatt, SEWA founder. Clinton visited a shop run by SEWA, a union of more than 1 million women operating cooperatives that make and sell embroidery and other products using microfinance methods. In addition, SEWA operates nearly 100 cooperatives focused on street vendors, home-based workers, agricultural laborers, and other professions in the informal sector in India. In 1995, Clinton visited SEWA as the First Lady; she has stayed in touch with Ms. Nanavaty and SEWA since then.
Clinton praised SEWA, saying, “If you look at what SEWA has accomplished, the most vulnerable women can work their way towards self-sufficiency and to more secure and healthy lives. And then it’s not just women who benefit; it’s their families and their communities.”
Founder Ela Bhatt responded, “The stated purpose of SEWA, whether it’s local or global, is how to bring the women, and particularly, women, girls into the mainstream of economy, and have the best benefits of it because they are the future of the world.”
UU Holdeen India Program Director Kathy Sreedhar observed, “SEWA is now active in many states in India and in a number of other countries. The program which Ela Bhatt, Reema Nanavaty, and the women of SEWA have nurtured has led to affiliations around the world, in Turkey, Afghanistan, South Africa, and Latin America. This is yet another indication of the strength of the union, business, banking, and cooperative model these women have developed.”
While visiting at the SEWA shop in Mumbai, Clinton made a number of purchases for clothing and other items, indicating her continuing support of the products produced by SEWA.