Sakhi Leaders Reflect on Progress

by Aneeta Rai, Community Outreach Intern

To celebrate the last two decades of Sakhi’s commitment to end domestic violence in our communities, Sakhi is hosting a celebration event and fundraising gala on Friday, October 2nd at the Prince George Ballroom. The past 20 years have been filled with important milestones for Sakhi, and the gala will be a momentous way to celebrate. Continuing with Sakhi’s tradition of organizing innovative fundraisers, this year’s expenses for the hall will benefit a local homeless shelter.

When Sakhi’s founders first gathered to discuss the need for a South Asian-specific domestic violence organization, there was an immediate need for Sakhi in the community. Rana Quraishi, a benefit committee co-chair and board member, said many of our first survivors were women who needed assistance in obtaining legal documents, such as passports. Today, however, Rana notes that Sakhi receives “a whole range of calls. Some of the women who seek our services are what you would call ‘well-to-do,’ and they need Sakhi for confidence, services, or a referral.” Sakhi’s focus on empowerment has truly brought women together from all walks of life, explained Rana.

Sakhi’s impact has reached beyond the domestic violence realm. As Rana observed, Sakhi has served as a pillar of support for the women in our community. “Sakhi has served as an example, both at home and abroad. It was not easy to reach out to our community about domestic violence and women’s empowerment. In my time at Sakhi, I have seen us become a beacon for women and our impact is now global,” said Rana.

Several other board committee chairs and members reflected upon their time and efforts invested at Sakhi in honor of this year’s 20th anniversary gala. “When I first volunteered for Sakhi in 2003 I attended their advocacy training. I had never experienced that type of training nor seen an organization that was so well-organized and worked so hard,” said Shabnam Mirza, a Sakhi benefit committee co-chair and board member. “Meeting survivors and hearing how their lives have changed because of Sakhi and how similar I am to them was a real eye-opener,” added Shabnam.

Reshma Patel, a Sakhi benefit comittee member, remembers joining Sakhi as a volunteer back in 1994, when Sakhi was still new. “I first volunteered for Sakhi by teaching survivors English. We have grown in so many ways since then. Now we not only offer English classes, but computer literacy classes as well,” said Reshma. “We now offer survivors the Swarna grant twice a year so that they have the opportunity to take classes to improve the lives of them and their children. Women may come to us because of abuse, but they stay because of all our other services,” added Reshma.

Shabnam agreed that Sakhi has greatly expanded its services over the past twenty years, particularly in its Economic Empowerment area. “As we’ve grown, we’ve been able to tailor our programs so we can be much closer to the people,” said Shabnam.

In fact, Sakhi has been able to provide many survivors with the resources and ability to support themselves, according to Rana. “I have seen many survivors go on to become volunteers and donors. It’s amazing how much of an impact Sakhi has made on the lives of so many women,” she added.

“It is one thing to get out of an abusive relationship. It’s another thing to be able to support yourself and your children afterwards,” said Reshma.  Every year the number of calls Sakhi receives for its services increases. With corporate sponsorship down, this gala is not just a celebration of two decades of dedication to ending domestic violence, but a means of providing funds to continue sustaining and expanding our reach in the community.

“In this economy, if you need to cut donations, we ask that you choose us this year.  Right now we need supporters with great ideas and a passion for us to succeed,” said Shabnam. Having this gala shows that we have a strong community, and a lot of work to do. That is why Sakhi still exists. Twenty years means we’re doing something right,” added Shabnam.

With continued support Sakhi can continue its dedicated work in the South Asian community. As Shabnam said, we need to eradicate domestic violence in our community. When we do, then Sakhi can serve a different purpose for South Asian women. “That would be ideal,” added Shabnam.

Until then, Sakhi remains a resource to survivors in times of need, and the gala will be a celebration of two decades of building a stronger community.