Ela Bhatt is one of Hilary Clinton's 'heroines'

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who relates Ela Bhatt as one of her 'heroines', has praised the eminent Indian social activist for playing an active role in establishing new employment standards for those working from their homes.

'She (Ela) convinced researchers to collect and analyse data about all the work people – mostly women – were actually doing from their homes. And once the numbers came out, policy makers couldn't ignore them.

And in 1996, thanks in large part to Ela's leadership, the International Convention on Home Work recognised the rights and contributions of those who work from their homes and established new standards for employment conditions,' Clinton said at 'Evidence and Impact: Closing the Gender Data Gap', a programme co-hosted by the State Department and Gallup here.

Ela, 78, is the founder of an organisation called the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) in India.
Clinton said Ela earned her law degree in the early 1950s at a time when not many women were in the law and certainly not many women in India.

'She used her degree to work for a local textiles labour union, but the law only granted rights and recognitions to industrialised labourers. All around her, she saw plenty of women doing lots of work in the informal economy,' Clinton said.

Ela learned that only 6 per cent of women in India were officially counted as employed. And she recognised that the first step to helping women who were obviously very hardworking but invisible to business and government would be to bring their work into public view, the Secretary of State said.

'Now, one easy way to prove the economic value of women in the informal economy would be to ask them all to take the week off and just see what happens,' Clinton said amidst laughter.

We have very strong data from India, and some evidence from other countries, that women leaders are more likely to direct spending toward infrastructure related to women?s roles and responsibilities, like better drinking water and sanitation, she said.

'But we need to learn more about the ways and degree to which greater representation by women influence public spending and public choices, as well as the overall efficiency of the outcomes that are sought.'

Last month, Clinton had identified Ela as one of her 'heroines'. 'I have a lot of heroes and heroines around the world and one of them is Ela Bhatt,' she had said.
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