Editor’s note: FTS South Asia Director Supriya Awasthi briefed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this month during Clinton’s trip to India. We thought you would enjoy Supriya’s reflections on her experience.
It is not easy to get an invitation to meet the U.S. Secretary of State. And for me, it was not an easy invitation to keep.
Let’s start from the beginning.
I was in a remote village when the call came. It was a Friday. I learned that Hillary Clinton would welcome my views on Indian slavery when she would visit Kolkata. The problem: Secretary Clinton would be in Kolkata on Sunday. I had less then 48 hours, and a long journey ahead.
There was no chance to get home. I had to immediately hop onto an overnight train, and there were no seats. But it was the only way to get to Kolkata in time. So, I sat in the passageway beside the lavatory for 12 hours. Fortunately, my colleague Rajneesh Yadav from our partner group MSEMVS was able to join me, and we kept one another company on the floor of the train.
Once in Kolkata, I had to dash out for respectable clothes. I arrived at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations just in time to greet Ms. Clinton’s entourage.
Her visit lasted only an hour, but it was a valuable hour. Eight organizations, including Free the Slaves, briefed Secretary Clinton. She asked if the situation was improving in India, and what she could do to create more awareness about slavery.
I let her know that the approach taken by Free the Slaves and our frontline partners is working, because it helps empower those in slavery to resist and overcome slavery through community action. That point seemed to hit home with her. After all, one of her books is titled “It Takes a Village.”
I thanked Secretary Clinton for her diplomacy with Indian officials. It has had an effect. Some state governments are implementing action plans.
Ms. Clinton left the meeting saying she would be our “cheerleader.” She went on: “Let me see how I can get you more attention.” One newspaper summed up her visit to Kolkata in four words: “Trafficking Tops Hillary Agenda.”
I left the meeting exhausted, but excited and inspired.