May 18, 2011

ENSS/SUTRA wins $50,000 grant from Omidyar and Ashoka Changemakers

ENSS World Bank Flyer Final

A conversation has been started about our entry A Family of One’s
Own: Single Women Demanding Land Rights for Economic Security

February 10, 2010

A FAMILY OF ONE'S OWN: Support the Association of Empowered Single Women in India! A little help goes a long way...

Welcome to my blog which is a grass-roots effort to support the many single women in rural northwest India (and their children) who have been economically and socially marginalized by virtue of their single status (widowed, divorced, abandoned, abused). Please join me in supporting single women who are organizing a new social movement to craft lives of dignity and justice.

In April, 2008 over 2700 single women, ages 20 to 90+, came together for a 3-day march to the state capital in Himachal Pradesh to demand of the legislature long term lease rights to government land, as well as other benefits (health care, public sector jobs, ration cards, pensions), all of which were previously denied to them. The march, the first of its kind in that area, was a tremendous success, granting several of their demands and enabling them to put aside their stigmatized identities and experience the power of being a part of a collective struggle.

However, long term leases to government-owned land, which are regularly offered for a variety of business projects, were denied.

The Association of Empowered Single Women (ENSS) has become the base support organization for this movement to provide land for poor single women. The current goal of ENSS is the purchase of land in rural Himachal Pradesh to support 10 women to live communally and farm. On a 2-acre unit, one older and one younger woman, each with experience as subsistence farmers, would create an economically viable family unit (including the children of the younger woman). The land would be worked for subsistence agriculture, with a portion of the produce sold at market to provide additional essentials. The women would be supported by ENSS professionals to ensure their integration into the broader community.

With evidence of a successful demonstration project, ENSS can then pressure the government into expanding this program of using available government land to create a viable future for India's disenfranchised single women. More information: http:/www.sutra/

Please be a part of this exciting, ground-breaking (literally) project to enable these women to have a life of dignity and identity by making a tax-deductible donation.
Your tax-deductible donation is payable to:
UU Holdeen India Program
with “SUTRA /ENSS land purchase project“on the memo line.

Mail to:
Kathy Sreedhar, Director
UU Holdeen India Program
1100 G Street, NW
Suite 800
Washington, DC 20005

The UU Holdeen India Program is one of the main granting organizations supporting SUTRA and ENSS.

For more information on the UU Holdeen India Fund, please visit:

The Unitarian Universalist Association is a 501(c)(3) organization, exempt from federal income tax. All donations are tax-deductible to the extent of the law. No tangible benefit, goods or services will be provided by the UUA or the UU Holdeen India Fund in consideration for your contribution.

The federal tax identification number is 04-2103733.

Further information on this blog includes the outline of who these women are and their demands from the government , the non-profits that support them, my personal reasons for involvement. I am also available for further information at


The Association of Empowered Single Women

In 2005 Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan (ENSS) was formed in Himachal Pradesh, with SUTRA (Social Uplift Through Rural Action), based in Solan District, becoming the base support organization. By 2007 ENSS Himachal had over 6000 dues-paying members who had crafted a common platform which they presented to the state legislature, including the following demands:
  • free health care (including free tests, procedures, and medication) for single women;
  • reservation of peripheral jobs in the public sector for single women;
  • ration cards for those single women who are separated from their husbands;
  • increased pension;
  • de jure land rights for tribal women, for farming.
  • Long term lease rights to state land for poor single women.

The Pad Yatra: Three-day Protest March

In April 2008 over 2600 single women marched for three days to insist that the state meet their demands for social and economic justice. The march ended at the state capital, Simla, where the women were addressed by the Chief Minister of the state. The Pad Yatra was a tremendous success: the first such march of single women in the country. It was an opportunity for single women to abandon stigmatized identities of widow, divorcee, abandoned women, and to embrace a new identity as single women working together in a collective struggle.

to Single Women’s Mobilization

By 2009 Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan had placed single women’s issues on the state agenda, and it had achieved several of the demands put forward in the 2008 pad yatra:  
  • after two years of residence after returning to the maternal home, single women may now obtain ration cards in their own names;
  • young widows have gained access to a pension;
  • the pension has been increased from 200 rupees per month to 330 rupees;
  • poor single women have access to government health insurance;
  • single women have gained increased benefits from the Mother Theresa scheme, which now grants 1000 rupees per child annually to impoverished single women, increasing the maximum eligibility age from 14 years to 18 years, and increasing the income cap from 12-18,000 per year.
 The demand for farm land, for housing and farming, however, has not been granted.

Nya Sasural (A Family of One’s Own)

To provide economic stability and a place from which single women can craft lives of dignity and respect, members of ENSS have created a dream of the nya sasural (a unique marital family, or a family of one’s own).

The Plan
  • An older single woman would join with a younger single woman and her children to create an economically viable and mutually supportive family unit.
  • Two acres of land would be used primarily for subsistence agriculture. A small portion of the farm produce sold in the market would help to help pay for clothing, oils, spices and other essentials not easily produced on a small plot of land.  
The Challenges 
  • To establish a cohesive relationship among the women of a household and across households in the demonstration community.
  • To create a context for promoting the dignity and respect of single women.
  • To create an economically viable household.
Support to Combat Challenges
  • ENSS has three psychologists ready to donate their time to provide the counseling necessary to establish healthy community relations.
  • ENSS leaders will work with the broader community to gain support for the single women’s collective and promote their dignity and welfare.
  • The single women chosen for the project will all have had life time experience as subsistence farmers in the region, including animal husbandry. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme will provide up to 100 days of minimum wage work in the community as a means of income generation to sustain the household. 

Private Funding and Foundation Grants: US$ 50,000 will need to be raised .
  • Purchase of two acres of land per household for a total of 10 acres of land for a demonstration collective of five single women households (each household has 2 single women and their children).
 Government Programs: 250,000 rupees
  • Micro-credit loans for cow or buffalo = 20,000 rupees per household for a total of 100,000 rupees
  • Grant for House Construction (through Indira Awaas Yojana) = 30,000 rupees per household for a total of 150,000 rupees.
  • The ultimate goal is to have the government see the success of the demonstration plan and allocate state-held land for 30 year leases to new single women households
ENSS HP: 25,000 rupees
  • ENSS will raise 5,000 rupees per household for basic household necessities.


Enss Padyatra Report
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