Reflections on Enabling Economic Empowerment

 by Manisha Shah ::

Two months ago, I was very excited to start an internship with Sakhi for South Asian Women. After taking a long break from work for three years, this internship was going to be my first exposure to the real working world of New York. The bonus was an opportunity to work within the Economic Empowerment arm of Sakhi, the focus of which has always been very close to my heart. What a great opportunity! I was thrilled but also a little nervous because I didn’t know what to expect.

Almost eight weeks later now, I look back and think of what I initially learned: first of all, to gear up oneself for an over-crowded subway. As you join the other thousands of commuters on a weekday morning who speed through, you must walk quickly, keep your eyes forward, stay to the right on the escalator and don’t dare say “hello” to anyone who hasn’t had their morning cup of coffee.

Thankfully, the atmosphere at Sakhi office was much friendlier than that of the subway station each morning. There is something wonderfully refreshing about this organization full of people who are devoted to helping survivors of domestic violence.

As an intern in the Economic Empowerment Program, I have been interacting regularly with five to six survivors who need support in creating resumes, cover letters, exploring job opportunities, education, and housing options.

I have been assisting survivors during the computer literacy workshops and it has truly been a journey of discovering new aspects of empowerment.

Small successes achieved in the computer classes, like creating an e-mail account and being able to send mails, has provided a sense of empowerment to the survivors. One of the survivors observed during the class, “I know just submitting the resume for a job isn’t a guarantee for getting the job, but I am happy that at least I have started the process.”

The power of knowledge achieved through these workshops gives survivors a better sense of control of the circumstances they are in. I have witnessed survivors refusing to be victims and trying to bounce back from traumatic situations. They are eager to learn, no matter how hard or confusing the task. The Economic Empowerment program enables survivors to attain a new confidence in attitude.

Another survivor observed, “Computers aren’t that difficult. I think with practice I will do much better.”

So, far, my internship at Sakhi has been an interesting journey—one where I have witnessed others’ triumphs, heartaches, and fears, but most importantly, a fierce will to survive.

For my part, meaningful work through passion sums up my work experience with Sakhi in the past two months.

In my remaining months as an intern, I look forward to seeing more successes.