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The Scarlet & Black

Shafiq Khan wins Grinnell Prize

Shafiq Khan operates an organization in Northern India called Empower People.  Contributed
Shafiq Khan operates an organization in Northern India called Empower People. Contributed

Wini Austin

In July, a Special Campus Memo announced the winner of the 2019 Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize, Shafiq R. Khan, founder and CEO of Empower People, an organization that fights against bride trafficking in Northern India.

More commonly known as the Grinnell Prize, the award celebrates social entrepreneurs and innovators who demonstrate an exceptional commitment to addressing social justice issues in their communities. The College awards $100,000 to the winner, which is split between the innovator and their organization.

Empower People is on the frontlines of bride trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery in which women and children are sold to men and forced to work in poor, abusive conditions for no pay. Throughout Northern India, Empower People addresses this problem on many levels, from rescue operations to victim rehabilitation and empowerment.

In an email to The S&B, Associate Dean and Director of Service & Social Innovation Susan Sanning elaborated on what differentiated Khan from the field of nominees for the award.

“His work is not easy and is often dangerous,” she said.

The committee was particularly interested in the way Empower People has addressed the root of the issue of bride trafficking.

“Not only have he and his organization, Empower People, shed light on the issues, but they have rescued innumerable women from bride traffickers, enabled the women’s rehabilitation, and supported the creation of communities of support led by the trafficked women themselves.”

Empower People has provided support to victims of bride trafficking that helps them foster healing communities and affect change in the systems that perpetuate the issue.

“I think the committee was impressed with how Shafiq, in collaboration with his feminist mentors, leveraged his identity as a man to influence other men and the patriarchal systems that lead to trafficking in the first place,” Sanning added.

Starting on Tuesday, October 1, Khan will be on campus for Grinnell Prize Week to share his work with the campus community. In addition to the Prize Award Ceremony, community members will also be invited to a discussion with Khan on how Indian folklore and music influence and strengthen his work. Khan will also illuminate how his work will be impacted by collaboration with the College and through the prize funding.

The College will also be hosting a panel of professionals, from Iowa and elsewhere in the United States, that work on human trafficking issues.

“It is our hope that the events of the week will give folks a sense of how they may become active agents in the fight against human trafficking,” Sanning concluded.

Kicking off Grinnell Prize Week, the Grinnell Prize Award Ceremony will take place Tuesday, October 1 at 12:00 p.m. in JRC 101.

Shafiq Khan operates an organization in Northern India called Empower People. Contributed
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