Nirmal Chandel*** Update: Unfortunately, Nirmal’s visit has had to be cancelled due to unforeseen circumstancses. The University of Edinburgh is hoping to rearrange her trip for the autumn. We’ll keep you posted ***
A special visitor is coming to Scotland next month – Nirmal Chandel, a grassroots activist for single women’s rights in northern India.
Nirmal is the founder and state coordinator of Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan (ENSS) in Himachal Pradesh. The group’s name translates as Single Women Strong Together.
This is Nirmal’s first trip outside northern India. She is visiting Scotland as a guest of the University of Edinburgh.
During her two-week visit Nirmal will take part in workshops, talk to international development students, and meet groups that support South Asian women in Scotland such as Sikh Sanjog, a social enterprise initiative which runs Punjabi Junction cafe in Leith.
She hopes the visit will bring together like-minded organisations, establish links between Scotland and India, and lead to an exchange of ideas about the best ways to tackle problems facing vulnerable single women.
Asia Scotland Institute is supporting Nirmal’s visit by co-hosting a screening of Water, a film by award-winning director and screenwriter Deepa Mehta which explores the lives of widows in India. Nirmal will take part in a Q&A session after the screening. More details on this to follow shortly.
Nirmal became a single woman – an “ekal nari” – aged just 22, when her young husband died after two years of marriage.
Widows have it tough in India. Unable to remarry, they frequently remain dependent on their in-laws who may see them as a burden on family resources. It is not uncommon for these women to be ostracised and abused.
Nirmal set up ENSS to support all vulnerable single women – whether widowed, separated or abandoned – and protect their right to lives of dignity, free from violence.
Working with an NGO called SUTRA, Nirmal’s initiative helps these women through educational workshops, advocacy and representation on local government councils, reproductive health and wellbeing initiatives and local social group.
ENSS’s goal is simple: to build single women’s confidence and self-esteem and help them forge ties with others in similar positions to themselves.
Nirmal, who is also president of India’s National Forum for Single Women’s Rights, made her connection with Scotland through working with international development students from the University of Edinburgh.
Nirmal’s visit culminates in her involvement in International Women’s Day on Sunday 8 March.