The Omidyar Network and Ashoka’s Changemakers program announced UU Holdeen India Program partner Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan (ENSS), a social movement working through Social Uplift Through Rural Action (SUTRA), as a winner of their “Property Rights: Identity, Dignity, & Opportunity for All” competition at last week’s annual World Bank Conference on Land & Poverty.
In conjunction with SUTRA, ENSS works to secure the rights of single women so that they can live with dignity and justice in Himachal Pradesh, India. Widowed, divorced, deserted, and unmarried women in India face unfathomable challenges, suffering in silence while a draconian system of mores strips them of rights and even basic assistance from their own families. With over 6,000 members, cutting across caste and class divides, ENSS has said no more to this systemic oppression.
By forging new family relationships and giving single women a support network, ENSS/SUTRA is demanding long-term lease rights for them from the government. Promoting a new type of “family,” or naya sasural, single women of all ages would be brought together to create a joint household, allowing for a division of labor through interdependence. This new kinship model gives women the opportunity to help one another and themselves by sharing househould responsibilities, childcare, and farming. Through it, they are no longer alone.
ENSS/SUTRA is pushing the Himachal Pradesh government to grant 30-year lease rights to single women. Through such an acquisition, a collective resource will be born and passed on, empowering landless and economically vulnerable single women. To encourage their government, ENSS/SUTRA plans to create a pilot program of five naya sasurals, comprised of 10 single women and their children, to demonstrate the value of this new family model and the importance of long-term lease rights.
The Changemakers competition attracted over 211 entries from 47 countries around the world, engaging a global community of thought leaders, sector experts, and citizens in support of the critical issue of property rights. ENSS/SUTRA, along with two other grant recipients, will receive $50,000, along with access to a broad network of leaders, to further their incredible work in this important field.