U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has made a point of connecting with people in other countries, especially women, during her diplomatic missions abroad, sometimes exposing her United Methodist roots along the way.
In India this week, she met with top business leaders and government leaders, but one of her early stops was at a Mumbai shop called Hansiba run by the Self Employed Women’s Association, a 37-year-old trade organization of poor women who earn a living through their own labor or small businesses.
“To the casual passersby, this may look like any other shop, but it is so much more than that,” she told those assembled. “It is a lifeline for thousands of women across India with valuable skills, but too few opportunities to use them and to realize income from them.”
Clinton also had enthusiastic meetings with women during her first Asian tour in February. In South Korea, she received a standing ovation from thousands who gathered at Ehwa Womans University as Bae Yong Lee, the university’s president, named her a “distinguished honorary Ewha fellow.”
It seemed appropriate for a school that was founded 123 years ago by an American female Methodist missionary. Lee said that Clinton’s life and work “reflects the founding spirit of Ewha itself, namely its commitment to the enhancement of women’s rights and the realization of human justice.”
Later on that tour, she showed her support for Chinese Christians by worshipping on Sunday morning at Haidian Christian Church in Beijing, which used to be associated with the Beijing Methodist Church. United Methodists now support work in China through the Amity Foundation, a Chinese Christian initiative to promote education, social services, health and rural development.
Back at the shop in India, Clinton, who has supported the association since a 1995 visit to India as first lady, bought a kurta, or traditional shirt, a quilt, a scarf and a corset-top for daughter Chelsea, it was reported.
But her words were probably more important to the women than her purchases. “I have long argued that women are key to economic progress and social stability, and that is as true here as it is anywhere in the world,” she said.