Last year I thought I had achieved my zenith when I met Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and received the Vital Voices Global Leadership Award – “Light of Freedom” in her presence. It was truly a high point and I didn’t ever think I would meet Hillary again. But as luck would have it, she is in Mumbai for the India Today Conclave 2018 to do the keynote speech.
When I first realised she was going to be in Mumbai on the exact same day we were hosting our Vital Voices Global Mentoring walk, I did my best to reach out to her office through Vital Voices to get her to come to our event and share her words of wisdom with the young women in the room. Vital Voices was her initiative as First Lady of the United States, post the Beijing Conference in 1995, to amplify the voices of women and provide them with opportunities for advancement in politics, the economy and a life free from violence.
Of course, I was dreaming big, but there was no harm in it because to my surprise, she invited us as her guests to the Conclave. Just goes to show – If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
So after a very eventful and energetic morning at the Mentoring walk, we made our way to the Grand Hyatt to meet with Hillary. Supreet and I were amongst a select few who got a private audience and photograph with her.
I had goosebumps as I felt like a real fangirl, a feeling that I don’t often have.
As I stood in line, waiting to meet her, I was transported to last year when I met her for the very first time. I remember standing transfixed at her inner energy and radiance and thinking of all the negative press she had received. Her inner light was glowing this time too and I wondered if she would remember me. When it was my turn, I introduced myself and Supreet and there was immediate recognition from the awards ceremony last year. She asked about our work at Safecity and was keen to know about the progress. Even though there were quite a few people waiting to meet her, not once did we feel rushed as she gave us her full attention and made us feel very welcome. Honestly, I had goosebumps as I felt like a real fangirl, a feeling that I don’t often have.
Later as I watched her on stage, radiating her energy and sharing her experiences, I wondered what might have been if only she had been POTUS. I still can’t reconcile to the fact that she lost the election despite having the popular vote.
She reinforced the message that we need more women and young people to enter politics so that we can pass on stable functioning democracies to our children and grandchildren.
But her message continues to be strong and loud in favour of women and girls. She reaffirmed her position of using her voice to raise the issues that limit and restrict women and girls from achieving their potential and specifically spoke about their progress being hampered by sexual violence and assault. She reinforced the message that we need more women and young people to enter politics so that we can pass on stable functioning democracies to our children and grandchildren.
Her message to “Stand up and Speak out” and marching #OnwardsTogether still resonates in my ear and just like her, I pledge to use my voice to end violence against women and girls.