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grassroots women leading change

This project strengthens women’s organizations in India by creating and expanding a network of organizations working on women’s rights, in particular strategizing ways of advancing work on addressing violence against women and children.

Participants, an informal feminist collective, support enhancing individual and organizational capacity to engage in collective action and building shared leadership for advancing women’s rights. 8 organizations are currently part of this informal network. These organizations are: Ant, Astitva, Mahila Shakti Kendra, Mahila Swarojgar Samiti, Sanatkada, Vanangana, Vikalp Sansthan.

As a whole, the collective:

  • Connects organizations  working in different parts of India
  • Supports the leaders of these organizations to adopt a more feminist style of leadership
  • Creates a safe space for collective reflection, dialogue, learning and strategizing on how to advance rights of women, especially those belonging to minority groups
  • Emphasizes democratization within organizations so that they are more inclusive and more effective in addressing deep-seated socio-cultural barriers and norms
  • Builds the capacity of network members to analyze the gendered nature of institutional spaces, document change, and develop innovative strategies to highlight their enhanced impact on addressing gender power dynamics
  • Engages in collective advocacy efforts to amplify voice of individual organizations
  • Promotes self-care of women’s rights advocates

Leading Organizations

The Action Northeast Trust (ANT)

Started in October 2000, the ANT is based in Rowmari in Lower Assam.It works in over 230 villages for furthering the pace of development in the areas falling under Chirang District of Bodoland in Lower Assam. It also works to build up the voluntary sector in the northeast region.

Astitva Samajik Sansthan

A community based organization that was established in May 2008 in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. Astitva strives to bring about gender equality and end gender based violence in society. This is done by empowering women and youth through rights advocacy, education, skill training, job placement, and services such as childcare. Astitva also provides comprehensive support services including counselling, legal aid, medical aid, and shelter for women, youth and children facing violence. They work in Purkazi, Shahpur, Budhana and Kandhala.

Mahila Swarojgar Samiti

An organization based at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India and was established in July 2000. Mahila Swarojgar Samiti works with women's groups in villages in order to set up self-help groups and income generation programmes. The aim of the project is to empower women to take control of their lives.

Mahila Shakti Kendra (MASK)

MASK was established in April 2002 and formed when 25 self-help groups (SHG) in Balipara came together to form Mahila Shakti Kendra (MASK), a SHG federation. MASK has now grown into a well-known and established authority on SHG promotion & training in the northeast. MASK has a vision of creating a transformed society with improved status for poor and marginalized members, especially women. It promotes self-help communities of love, concern, thrift and solidarity among the poor, especially among marginalized women irrespective of caste, creed or colour.

Social Action for Knowledge Building & Awareness Raising (SAKAR)

SAKAR works in Bareilly & Rampur districts in Uttar Pradesh. As a voluntary development organization, SAKAR strives to make the lives of the marginalized, especially women and children more meaningful by helping them engage in change processes. SAKAR has created a network of 1500 Dalit and Muslim women to advocate for their rights, violence against women and access to government schemes.

Sanatkada Samajik Pahal Sadbhavana Trust

It was set up to market products for rural crafts and weavers in Lucknow in 2006. Sanatkada Samajik Pahal works towards empowering, poor marginalized communities and focuses on building leadership skills in young Muslim women. Their three pronged approach includes building perspective on gender and identity, and increasing access to information and technical skills (including computers, internet and video filming).


Vanagana is a women’s organisation that was established in 1994 and works in Chitrakoot and Banda Districts of Uttar Pradesh. Vanangana is a feminist organisation working to break existing stereotypes around what women can and cannot do. They work with women from the Dalit and Muslim communities, organizing them against issues of gender-based, caste-based and community-based discrimination from a human rights perspective.

Vikalp Sansthan

Vikalp Sansthan strongly believes in working with youth and creating a new generation of change agents. Vikalp has therefore dedicated itself to the needs and aspirations of youth with integrity, accountability and perseverance. Since 2004, the original group of young social workers has expanded to include over 400 regular volunteers and 200,000 “Changemakers” who have been influenced by Vikalp’s work. Vikalp operates out of its main office in Udaipur and works through volunteers in nine districts and 231 villages in south and west Rajasthan.