Sakhi Fields Rising Requests for Services in 2009

by Meena Jagannath, Policy and Direct Services Intern

This year has been an incredible one for the direct services team at Sakhi for South Asian Women. Sakhi has experienced a significant rise in community demand for our services: in the first half of 2009, our domestic violence team has already responded to 403 new requests for assistance. Sakhi has experienced a jump of nearly 17% in our call volume as we responded to 345 new requests in the first half of 2008 as compared to 403 new requests in the first half of 2009.

As Fatma Zahra, Domestic Violence Program Advocate, reflects, “The call volume for 2009 is on a rise. This is of no surprise considering the economic tumult that domestic violence survivors are facing in addition to the abuse from their partners. With a shrinking economy and fewer social service agencies, domestic violence survivors are calling Sakhi for a range of services related to their legal, emotional, and economic needs.”

Demonstrating Sakhi’s wide reach in the community, the percentage of survivors of non-South Asian origin almost doubled this year, from 6.1% in 2008 to 11.7% so far this year. We know South Asian community members rely on Sakhi. But these statistics demonstrate that Sakhi serves as a key resource for a larger community as well. Sakhi’s trusted service delivery is a vital support for South Asian survivors and shows the organization’s unique reach and impact.

In addition to crisis response services, Sakhi provides programming to enable survivor support. This year, well-attended support groups dealt with sexual harassment in the workplace in April with 11 survivors attending, a discussion on supporting survivors of domestic violence in May with 10 survivors, and a yoga and stress management session in June with participation from 7 survivors.

Sakhi has also seen remarkable success in its economic empowerment programming through computer classes and financial literacy workshops. Notably the February tax clinic had more than double the attendance from last year (11 survivors to 24) and yielded around $60,000 in tax refunds and Earned Income Tax Credit for twenty survivors. “Sakhi’s innovative economic empowerment programming makes a material impact in survivors’ lives. It’s powerful to host these tax clinics because in one day we at Sakhi can have such a deep impact on a survivor’s self-sufficiency and dreams – and it extends our ongoing programming to support survivors through the rest of the year,” notes Executive Director Purvi Shah.

In light of the economic climate, Sakhi has held numerous financial literacy workshops with survivors this year. In February, 11 women attended a workshop on credit and identity theft, particularly relevant for this vulnerable population in the present economic climate. A March workshop on becoming an investor had 10 women attend. Then in May, Sakhi conducted a workshop on credit and debt management that with 7 survivors participating. These workshops allow survivors access to a broad spectrum of knowledge and skills to help increase financial independence.

Furthermore, assistance with financial crisis response, public benefits, and external scholarships continues to be a key part of the way that Sakhi aids survivors who experience language barriers or discomfort in seeking such resources on their own. Fatma observes, “As one of few culturally specific agencies that can help address all these issues, Sakhi plays a vital role in enabling survivors’ access to these much-needed services while also instilling hope during these difficult financial times. Regardless of the economy, it is imperative that Sakhi’s work continue because survivors must know that options are not closed to them.”