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Hillary Clinton visits WWF (I), wants Grassroots Women Entrepreneurs to be Local Leaders , Aug 2011

23 September 2011

Source :  SME World

 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her recent visit to India visited Working Women’s Forum (India), a leading Chennai-based NGO, and announced “Goldman Sachs, a global financial company, has decided to support a training program through the Indian School of Business to help self-help groups bring even more knowledge and skills about how to take your businesses from the very local village level to the cities, to the countries, to the world.”

To a thunderous applause from the mass of grassroots-level women workers engaged in different petty businesses gathered to listen to the distinguished guest, Clinton attracted said, “I also know there are several panchayat members here, and I thank you for working so hard to promote government and democracy at the local level. So I am pleased to announce that the Government of the United States and the Government of India will establish a regional training program at the Asia University of Women to spotlight the success of the panchayat program, and train more women to be local leaders like you.

Applauding the Forum’s Founder President Dr. Jaya Arunachalam, Clinton said “I want to thank my friend and your friend, a wonderful woman who is viewed as a leader around the world, Jaya.

Self-help Movements

“I want you to know that I have admired the work of the Working Women’s Forum for many years. In 1978, there were only 800 women members. Today, there are more than 1 million of you. I am honored to be here with you to celebrate your accomplishments in bringing micro-credit to women, in bringing healthcare and other services to women so they could have a better life for themselves and their children.”

Acknowledging the results of self-help movement across nations, she said “I have seen women’s lives change, as we heard from the wonderful story earlier. Every one of you has a story, and I applaud you for what you have done to help yourselves. So today, I wanted to bring you some more help, to help more women.

We also want to continue working with the Working Women’s Forum on the very serious problem we just heard about, violence against women. And we want to work with you on another problem, and that is the smoke that you breathe when you are cooking for your families. Because of the health problems caused by breathing smoke, we have worked with many partners around the world to create the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. And we’re very proud that the Indian Government launched its own National Biomass Cookstove Initiative two years ago, that is trying to save lives and improve the conditions for cooking for millions of Indian women.”

Role Model

Describing Dr. Jaya Arunachalam as a role model for every woman, she said “this is a woman who has worked so hard. And all of you will have to decide how you can follow her model, so that you not only help yourselves and your families but you spread the word about microfinance, about bank accounts, about starting businesses, about getting health services, about empowering the women of this state, and giving everyone a chance to live up to your God-given potential.

Welcoming Hillary Clinton, Dr. Jaya Arunachalam said, “it’s a dream come true for Working Women’s Forum (India)” and introduced her to the anxious audience comprising mostly women entrepreneurs from the class of urban/rural poor saying “Your Excellency is the US Secretary of State involved in decision making in everything in US along with President Obama and a global woman leader, empowering women worldwide.

“Despite living across the seas your heart lives with women and the vulnerable and it’s no exaggeration to say that your entire life is devoted to empowerment of women in whatever position you have been. Your clarion call towards women’s empowerment at Beijing in 1995 echoed around the world that was reflected in many initiatives everywhere facilitated them to fight for equal opportunities in every field of activities. In India too we had at that time a very supportive Prime Minister Shri. Rajiv Gandhi who created an atmosphere right from an advisory committee under his personal guidance and created many machineries for the implementation of Beijing’s 13 points Platform of Action.

“We at WWF apart from microfinance have all our programme specifically in healthcare not only to fight atrocities on women and children but also prevent female infanticide/foeticide, education of adolescent girls, strengthened productive role of women, advocating two child norms and programmes also taking care of old women through insurance/social security.”

Dr. Arunachalam whom Hillary Clinton honoured with the Global Leadership title award for Economic Development in Washington in 2005 said “more or less as one third of world’s poor are found in India it is actually reflected in Working Women’s Forum (India). As representatives of the Forum’s 1.2 million women in three southern states of India we welcome you with open arms and folded hands.”