Taking Advantage of Seasoned Activists to Expand and Strengthen Human Rights Movements

Regan Ralph, Fund for Global Human Rights

The Fund for Global Human Rights seeks to maximize the impact of its grantmaking by supporting established human rights organizations to mentor emerging groups working at the state and local levels. At the same time, the Fund provides direct funding to local groups to strengthen their organizations and expand their grassroots base. This strategy seeks to take advantage of the experience of seasoned activists to expand and strengthen human rights movements.

In India, for example, the Fund has supported the Association of Strong Women Alone (ASWA) to challenge pervasive discrimination against ekal nari (women alone), including single and divorced women, widows, and women abandoned by their families who are denied government benefits and employment opportunities as a result of their social status.  ASWA has helped thousands of low-income single women access widow pensions, obtain employment, secure land titles and prevent eviction, and stop community or family violence and harassment.  As a result of training and institutional support provided by ASWA in Himachal Pradesh, single women’s organizations have formed in six more Indian states.

While assuming the lead in supporting the group in Himachal Pradesh, the Fund coordinated with other donors supporting the single women’s movement (including Hivos, Holdeen, and American Jewish World Service) in other Indian states.  The rapid expansion of these movements demonstrates the potential for hundreds of thousands of widows and separated women to help one another to challenge discrimination, harassment, and violence.

These ekal nari groups have now formed the National Forum of Single Women’s Rights, the first nationwide effort to press for legal and policy reform and share information and strategies among activists.  Moving forward, the Fund will continue to work with ekal nari groups to identify opportunities to support single women’s groups in additional states to protect the rights and welfare of one of the most vulnerable populations in India.

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