by Aneeta Rai, Community Outreach Intern
Last month Sakhi for South Asian Women sponsored its first legal clinic to specifically address financial issues. The workshop was facilitated by the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project (NEDAP), as Jyotswaroop Bawa, Sakhi’s Economic Empowerment Coordinator, and a Legal Aid attorney remained in the audience to answer additional questions. The course sought to empower survivors to become financially independent and gave them the resources necessary to do so.
Survivors attended an economic empowerment workshop run by Jyotswaroop, and, if they felt that they had additional needs and concerns that could be addressed by the legal clinic, went to that session as well. Each lasted three hours.
The empowerment workshop gave survivors basic information on how to take control of finances. Survivors left the course with a better understanding of basic but extremely valuable information on credit and debt.
“A survivor’s understanding of finances and economic empowerment is essential to her process of becoming financially independent and secure,” Jyotswaroop commented. “It is what will enable her to end abuse in her life.”
To help survivors understand their fiscal rights, the workshop focused on the different types of credit they may come across, such as unsecured loans versus secured loans, or what a credit card is. Sakhi also taught survivors about principal and interest so that they do not accumulate serious debt without realizing it. Other lessons included credit and privacy issues and how survivors can order a credit report for free.
The legal clinic counseled women on their legal rights as survivors of domestic violence, as well as the rights of survivors with immigrant status. Survivors were provided important information, such as which documents to bring to court when dealing with a case involving domestic abuse.
In the past 20 years, Sakhi has met countless women who unknowingly accumulated debt or a bad credit report due to unwanted circumstances or spousal financial abuse. For example, many times an abuser forces his spouse to sign her name on an account. Without literacy in English, the survivor does not know what she is signing. If the survivor chooses to leave her abuser, she leaves not knowing that she has the burden of paying off the debt that her abuser created. At the workshop, survivors learned ways to improve their credit report in the event that this happens and how they may rid their credit report of negative information after the fact.
With this pertinent information, survivors can become more economically independent. Participants in both the workshop and clinic walked away with education and options necessary to make decisions for themselves and their children.