Vivek Maru, CEO of Namati Named Recipient of Skoll Foundation Awards

Vivek Maru chief executive officer of Washington, D.C.-based Namati, which works to protect community lands, enforce environmental law, and secure basic rights to health care and citizenship around the world; Mallika Dutt, president and CEO, and Sonali Khan, vice president, of Breakthrough, which mobilizes communities to disavow discrimination and violence against women through the use of popular media, leadership training, and advocacy are among the six who have been named recipients of the 2016 Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship.

The three Indian Americans received the coveted award at a special ceremony April 14. The award allots $1.25 million to an organization to scale up its work and increase its impact. The Skoll Foundation has announced the annual awards provide unrestricted funding to social entrepreneurs and organizations that are driving large-scale social change and are poised to have an even greater impact on some of the world’s most pressing problems. This year, the awardees will receive $1.25 million each over three years to scale their work.

Chuck Slaughter, founder of Living Goods, which works to support networks of village health entrepreneurs who go door-to-door teaching families better health practices while selling basic health products; Oren Yakobovich CEO of Videre, which gives local activists equipment, training, and the support needed to safely capture footage of human rights violations and distributes the results strategically with the aim of influencing media, political leaders, and courts; and Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, which seeks to reform the criminal justice system and secure freedom for those unjustly imprisoned in the United States, were the others who have been honored with the awards.

“Each 2016 Skoll Award recipient is guided by a profound commitment to justice and a deep sense of compassion,” said Sally Osberg, president and CEO of the Skoll Foundation. “These social entrepreneurs know that injustice robs the disadvantaged of opportunities and hope, and that justice represents a human need as fundamental as food or shelter. It is their hunger for justice that has fueled their work to transform the lives of those who have been denied justice by building new systems and institutions to strengthen societies.”

“These social entrepreneurs know that injustice robs the disadvantaged of opportunities and hope, and that justice represents a human need as fundamental as food or shelter. It is their hunger for justice that has fueled their work to transform the lives of those who have been denied justice by building new systems and institutions to strengthen societies,” said Osberg.

Vivek Maru, CEO of Namati Named Recipient of Skoll Foundation AwardsAs we work to challenge gender norms and envision a world in which gender-based violence is unacceptable, we are grateful to partners like the Skoll Foundation who recognize innovation and invest in it,” said Mallika Dutt, president and CEO of Breakthrough, in a press statement. “When we come together and pool resources we can dismantle rigid gender norms and create the culture change that will allow us all to reach our full potential.”

Breakthrough works to combat gender-based violence by shifting the focus to prevention and transforming the societal and cultural norms that lead to inequality and violence, noted the organization. Breakthrough uses innovative media and cultural strategies to engage youth and young adults.

The organization has reached 15 million people in rural communities in India and 350 million through its media campaigns, and has contributed to raising the average age of marriage by nearly a year in Bihar and Jharkhand, India.

Breakthrough will use its Skoll grant of $1.25 million to expand its work on 500 college campuses in the U.S. In India, Breakthrough will use Skoll Award funding to engage an audience of 150 million through multiple media channels and increase partnerships with states and advocates at the state and national level.

Vivek Maru founded Namati in 2011 to lend structure to billions of people globally who live outside the protection of the law. They can be driven from their land, extorted by officials, and intimidated by violence. Maru founded Namati to place the power of the law in the hands of the people.

Namati trains and deploys grassroots legal advocates who work with communities to advance justice. The organization trains “community paralegals” who serve low-income people in rural areas to gain access to their legal rights. Together with its partners, Namati has supported more than 40,000 clients in eight countries to protect community lands, enforce environmental law, and secure basic rights to healthcare and citizenship.

“(The award) is a generous recognition of the legal empowerment movement. We hope to use this opportunity to raise the profile of legal empowerment with a wider community of allies and supporters,” said Maru in a press statement. According to Sally Osberg, “These six remarkable people give voice and agency to the voiceless and marginalized, and give us good reason to believe in a radically better future.”

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