A shock was felt all across India when news of Padma Bhushan recipient and women’s rights activist Ela Bhatt’s death was reported. Renowned for her Gandhian ideologies, she founded the Cooperative Bank of Sewa, India’s first women’s bank, in 1973. Bhatt won numerous awards in her life and inspired many, but very few can guess the most unexpected person she motivated.

Bhatt died on Wednesday, November 2, 2022, in a hospital in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. “It is with profound grief that we announce the passing away of our beloved and respected founder, Smt. Elaben Bhatt, a pioneer in advocating for women workers’ rights, we strive to carry her legacy forward,” SEWA, the women’s rights organisation she founded, confirmed her death on Twitter.

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While Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi, Jairam Ramesh and many others sent their condolences following the death of Ela Bhatt, an old tweet from former First Lady of the United States, Hillary Clinton, went viral.

“One of my personal heroes is Ela Bhatt, who has provided microloans to women in India for 46 years. Her work embodies the principle that every person should have the chance to achieve his or her dreams and make the most of their God-given potential,” the tweet by Clinton read.

Hillary Clinton was the first lady of the United States between 1993 and 2001, during the presidency of her husband, Bill Clinton. The tweet was sent on December 14, 2018, close to four years before the death of the Indian enigma.

The tweet also included photos of Hillary Clinton with Ela Bhatt at the Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat, where the latter served as the chairperson. The former US First Lady was visiting India at the time to attend the wedding of Isha Ambani, the daughter of Reliance Industries MD and Chairman Mukesh Ambani. During her time in India in 2018, she decided to revisit the Sabarmati Ashram after more than two decades.

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Hillary Clinton and Ela Bhatt knew each other since 1995, during the former’s maiden visit to the Sabarmati Ashram. In an Instagram post, she recalled how the two met in 1995 and described the years of work of Bhatt.

“On my first visit to their headquarters in Ahmedabad in 1995, SEWA’s 140,000 members included some of the poorest women in India with the least access to education. Some had lived in purdah until their husbands died, became disabled, or left. Many had struggled day to day to support their families,” Clinton wrote.

She also revealed that she stayed in touch with Bhatt and finally in 2018, she had the chance to witness the impact of her Indian inspiration’s organisation, the Self-employed Women’s Association in India (SEWA).

“Ela and I stayed in touch, and I’ve had the chance to see the organization and its impact grow even larger over the years. When I visited SEWA’s new retail shop in Mumbai in 2009, the organization had just over a million members.,” Clinton added.

Ela Bhatt’s groundbreaking work on women’s empowerment was recognised by the Government of India twice. She was honoured by the fourth highest civilian honour of the country, the Padma Shri, in 1985. A year later, she was honoured with India’s third-highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan, in 1986.

Also Read: Ela Bhatt dead: List of awards of the Padma Bhushan recipient

As per Hillary Clinton, Ela Bhatt’s work was “fundamentally about fairness”. She also revealed that she was inspired by all women of SEWA and that she could not wait to witness what they go on to achieve.

“Ela’s work is fundamentally about fairness. Every person should have the chance to achieve his or her dreams and make the most of their God-given potential—no matter how rich or poor and no matter whether they work in a factory or a home or on the side of a road. I’m so inspired by these women and I can’t wait to see all they continue to overcome and achieve,” Clinton added.