The University of Edinburgh and AsiaScotland co-host Guest Speaker from Himachal Pradesh
From 22nd February 2015 for two weeks, Nirmal Chandel will be hosted in Edinburgh to speak at the University of Edinburgh postgraduate placement programme for International Development, carrying out workshops with students working on gender equity and development in South Asia. She will also be meeting civil society groups working to support South Asian women in Scotland to promote understanding through mutually enriching focus groups. The aim of her visit will be to make effective connections between these sister organisations, her own work as a single women’s rights activist in India and the University’s students of International Development.
Nirmal Chandel is the State co-ordinator of ENSS which promotes the rights of single women to a life of dignity and freedom from violence. She is also the president of india’s National Forum for Single Women’s Rights.
Details of the events will be published on the website in due course.
Nirmal Chandel is a grassroots activist for single women’s rights in Northern India. She is the State coordinator of Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan (ENSS) in Himachal Pradesh which is an NGO forming networks across the State to support single women through educational workshops, women’s health initiatives and local social groups. It also works to develop their rights through advocacy and political involvement through representation in the Panchayat Raj Institutions (local and state level councils). She is also President of The National Forum for Single Women’s Rights in India which is now an organisation encompassing representatives from seven northern states.
I was fortunate to work with Nirmal when on placement through the Placement Programme for the MSc South Asia and International Development, University of Edinburgh. Up in the wooded hills of Solan District, with Shimla and the Himalayas just visible in the distance, the campus of SUTRA hosts ENSS. A ten minute walk down a dirt track from a small rural hamlet at the end of the bus route brings you to the home of this NGO for Social Upliftment Through Rural Action. Nirmal became a single woman – Ekal Nari – after two years of marriage when her husband died aged 23. She has lived the typical solitary life of Ekal Nari who traditionally cannot remarry, but stay within their in-law’s home and work for the family in return for the roof over their heads. They are very vulnerable and often ostracised and abused; they are generally considered inauspicious and a drain on the family resources in this fiercely patriarchal rural society.
Nirmal will be coming to talk to the placement programme students and do workshops with those interested in NGO work for gender and development as well as for those specifically interested in South Asia. She will also be meeting with civil society groups which work to support South Asian women in Scotland. The objective of these forums will be an exchange of experiences for these women both in the East and West and an exchange of ideas about the ways in which they are tackling the issues they struggle with.
There will be a film screening of “Water” by award-winning Deepa Mehta with a Q&A during her visit and other opportunities to meet in small focus groups and social events.
All events will be published on the placement programme website and on this blog and I hope anyone interested in Women’s Development work will make sure they have a moment to meet with Nirmal Chandel and hear her speak.