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Grinnell College awards Grinnell Prize to leader of anti-trafficking group in India

Shafiq R. Khan, center, speaks at an EMPOWER PEOPLE campaign event.

Shafiq R. Khan, through his work with EMPOWER PEOPLE, endeavors to eradicate bride trafficking  

GRINNELL, Iowa — Grinnell 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. His organization fights 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 long-standing commitment to social responsibility and action,” said 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.

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

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.

Grinnell Prize Week Events  
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 following events are free and open to everyone:

Tuesday, Oct. 1

Noon–1 p.m.

Grinnell Prize Awards Ceremony with Keynote Speech by Prize Winner Shafiq R. Khan
Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101, 1115 Eighth Ave., Grinnell

Lunch will be provided.

7­–8:30 p.m.

Dessert and Discussion with Kahn: “Indian Folklore in Grassroots Feminist Activism”Rosenfield Center, Room 209
Bride trafficking has deep cultural roots in Indian society and may be traced through folklore, music and popular culture. Folklore and regional songs depict bride trafficking, dowry traditions and the criminal network that operates to lure girls into trafficking and may serve as a great tool to engage the grassroots in the anti-trafficking movement.

Wednesday, Oct. 2

Noon–1 p.m.

Panel Discussion: “Fighting for Freedom: Disrupting Human Trafficking in Iowa and Beyond”

Humanities and Social Studies Center, Room 1164, 1226 Park St., Grinnell
Panelists will be Grinnell College alumni and Iowa leaders working on the frontlines to disrupt human trafficking on local, national and international levels. They will discuss their collaborative work to empower those affected by trafficking, how their own careers have evolved and how others might become active agents in the fight against human trafficking.

Thursday, Oct. 3

11 a.m.–1 p.m.

Coffee with the Prize Winner
Saints Rest Coffee House, 917 Broad St., Grinnell
Khan will be available for informal conversation over coffee.

Grinnell College welcomes the participation of people with disabilities. Information about parking and accessibility is available on the college’s website: Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations at 641-269-3235 or

The college welcomes minors at all age-appropriate public events and for informal visits, with the understanding that a parent, legal guardian, or other responsible adult assumes full responsibility for their child’s safety and behavior during such visits or events. In these cases, the college expects that an adult responsible for the visiting child takes measures to ensure the child’s safety and sees that the child complies with directions of college personnel. Grinnell College is not responsible for supervision of minors on campus.

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