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2012 Walsh School of Foreign Service Commencement Ceremony

Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:00 p.m. ET

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The speaker at the 2012 Edward A. Walsh School of Foreign Service Commencement Ceremony was Ela R. Bhatt.

Bhatt has defended the rights of poor and marginal women for more than 60 years. Through her early work with the Women’s Wing of the Textile Labor Association, Bhatt encountered firsthand the dire condition in her native India of self-employed women, who comprised 90 percent of the total labor force. These women had none of the legal protections extended to workers in the organized sector.

To combat this injustice, Bhatt, in 1972, established the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), the largest union in India. SEWA formed a women’s cooperative bank, created a highly successful literacy program, offers child care centers and promotes low-cost housing and microfinance. Bhatt has also been a long-time consultant to UNICEF, and has served as a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation and received numerous awards.

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