Winner of 2019 Grinnell Prize Fights to Eradicate Bride Trafficking in India

September 13, 2019

The College has awarded the 2019 Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize of $100,000 to Shafiq R. Khan, founder and CEO of EMPOWER PEOPLE. He and his organization fight to eradicate bride trafficking in North India and to empower the independence, agency, and leadership of girls and women who have been affected by this practice.

“The Grinnell Prize exemplifies our mission and demonstrates our values and longstanding commitment to social responsibility and action,” says Grinnell College President Raynard S. Kington. “It is my hope that Grinnell Prize winners like Khan inspire and challenge us to find ways to use our own values, insights, relationships, and educational experiences as catalysts to become purpose-driven change-makers throughout the world.”

The Grinnell Prize honors individuals who have demonstrated leadership in their fields and who show creativity, commitment, and extraordinary accomplishment in effecting positive social change. Grinnell Prize Week events and the award are testament to the College's commitment to exploring ideas of purpose, responsibility, and justice on campus and beyond.

During Grinnell Prize Week, Oct. 1­–3, students, faculty, staff, and the general public will interact with Khan, learning how to facilitate collaboration, build partnerships, and spur systematic change. The first public event is the Awards Ceremony and Keynote Speech by Kahn, which will begin noon on Tuesday, Oct. 1, in Room 101 of the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, 1115 Eighth Ave., Grinnell.

EMPOWER PEOPLE operates in many regions across North India, most notably in the Mewat district of Haryana. The group supports 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.

To date 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 across 10 Indian states.

Khan deeply 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 training. He also recruits male allies to join in efforts to curtail bride trafficking.

The Grinnell Prize, established in 2011, provides $100,000 that will be divided between Khan and EMPOWER PEOPLE.

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