February 10, 2010


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.

1 comment:

  1. This is an admirable and lovely plan. I hope it's coming along well.


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