US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday presented the first Global Fairness Initiative Award to Ela Bhatt, founder of the Self-Employed Women's Association that has helped over a million women in India gain access to opportunities for themselves and their families.
"She (Bhatt) has helped not only women in India but women in South Africa, in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and inspired so many others to find their own way forward to overcome long legacies of inequality and unfairness. She has helped us imagine and then work toward a fairer world," Clinton said at the award ceremony held at the Kennedy Center in Washington.
"So for her contribution to India and particularly the women of India, and to the global community, it is my honour to present the first Global Fairness Award to my friend, Ela Bhatt," she said.
The event was hosted by Global Fairness Initiative in partnership with the Prince of Wales Foundation and NBC Universal.
"The work that she has done through the Self-Employed Women's Association is not only about finding solutions to the problems of poverty. At its most basic level, Ela's work is about fairness, about giving every person the chance to achieve his or her dreams, to make the most of his or her God-given potential—no matter how rich or poor, no matter whether they work in a factory or a home or on the side of a road," the Secretary of State said.
"Even in places where it is most stark, people still should be able to develop their ambitions and direct them toward building better lives. And Ela and SEWA have proven that," Clinton said, adding that she first met Ela in Ahmadabad in 1995 when she travelled there as the First Lady.
Recipient of several prestigious awards, Ela Bhatt is known as one of the world's most remarkable pioneers and entrepreneurial forces in grassroots development.
She founded SEWA in 1972, is the Founder Chair of the Cooperative Bank of SEWA and the Indian School of Micro-Finance for Women.
"Ela Bhatt has upended the old ways of thinking and compelled all of us to raise our collective ambitions about what we can do to close the gap between the rich and the poor," Clinton said.
"She has spent nearly every day of the past four decades helping move more than a million poor women in India to a position of dignity and independence, gaining access to opportunities they never dreamed possible. Like the chance to start a business or send their daughters and their sons to school, open their own bank account, or simply be treated with respect by their husbands, their mothers-in-law, their neighbors, and authorities," Clinton added.