Shafiq R. Khan, founder and CEO of Empower People, has been selected as the winner of the 2019 Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize. Khan and Empower People have been instrumental in the fight to eradicate bride trafficking in North India and in empowering the independence, agency, and leadership of girls and women who have been affected by this issue.
Empower People operates in many regions across North India, most notably in the Mewat district of Haryana. The organization works to support law enforcement agencies and families of trafficked brides by locating and rescuing missing girls and women. The organization then ensures follow-up through an intensive rehabilitation and tracking process that aims to ensure that the women and their ostracized children live safer, more equitable lives and do not fall prey to trafficking again.
Khan understands that his position as a man places him in a unique position to challenge the patriarchal systems that undergird bride trafficking. In addition to empowering women to work to change these systems themselves, Khan conducts village conversations, educational programs, and political advocacy and recruits male allies.
Khan and Empower People have rescued and rehabilitated approximately 4,250 trafficked women and girls, intervened in 88 cases of honor killings, and taken up 27,500 cases of domestic violence. Through the support of Empower People, approximately 3,200 girls are continuing their education and 12,650 children of trafficked women are attending school in 85 villages of 10 Indian states.