by Ragni Marea Kidvai, Community Outreach Intern
In celebration of Sakhi’s 20th Anniversary, Sakhi Media Intern Cassie Jones and Executive Director Purvi Shah, have gone on a media journey that traces Sakhi’s two decades of commitment to ending domestic violence. Interviewing staff, volunteers, interns, board members, and survivors, this video is an archive of courage and the collective and individual struggles necessary to make Sakhi’s vision closer to being a reality.
Over the years, Sakhi has produced six professional films and a Public Service Announcement about domestic violence, the struggles faced by South Asian survivors, and Sakhi’s work in the South Asian community. Due to the impact of visual media, these videos about Sakhi’s groundbreaking initiatives to end violence against women are excellent tools for community education as well as for personal enrichment, offering rare first-hand testimonies, documentation, and information not available in any other place.
To be debuted at Sakhi’s 20th Anniversary Gala on October 2nd 2009, this film provides an overview of Sakhi’s achievements and impact on the community by combining photographs of Sakhi marches, protests, and events with a collection of recent interviews with people who have been involved with Sakhi in different capacities over the last 20 years. In an interview with media intern Cassie Jones, I discuss the particulars of this upcoming film in further detail.
Ragni: I know you’re working on a film for Sakhi’s 20th Anniversary Gala. What is this film about and what kind of format does it follow?
Cassie: This film has been designed to reflect upon twenty years of Sakhi growth – of a continued vision including a holistic approach to fighting domestic violence, offering a hand not only to individuals but also to communities. This film introduces courageous women and men who challenged themselves by reaching within, before reaching out.
Brought to life by a collection of narratives told by survivors, volunteers, advocates, founders, and staff, all of whom have been an inspiration and are an essential reminder of Sakhi’s impact. Like the organization itself, the film is well-rounded, quilted by a compilation of mixed media archives and interviews. The essence of the film is honest and humble, complementing the organization’s unchanging grassroots mentality and growing national impact.
R: You’ve been conducting interviews for this film. Who are some of the people you have interviewed so far?
C: Mustering the courage to tell one’s story is not easy and having the opportunity to be a part of the willingness to share one’s journey with Sakhi has been a privilege. Some of the individuals interviewed for our piece have been long-time Sakhis.
Prema Vora, former Executive Director of Sakhi, is now a middle school math teacher; Professor of Sociology at Hofstra University and former Sakhi board member Margaret Abraham worked with Sakhi to write her book “Speaking the Unspeakable” examining marital violence among South Asians. We also spoke with Romita Shetty, a Sakhi co-founder, and Tamseela Tayyabkhan, currently Sakhi’s Board of Directors’ Chair, who both provided a detailed timeline of Sakhi from a grassroots group to a nationally-recognized organization.
We interviewed a few volunteers, as well as Sakhi’s first wave of interns: DJ Rekha being one of them. Along with featuring voices that have worked behind the scenes, we also spoke with a beautiful, courageous and humbling survivor named Pria who exemplified an undying perseverance to take control of her life and live anew.
Working to emulate the holistic approach of Sakhi for South Asian Women, this film includes interviews with Ana Oliveira, President and CEO of New York Women’s Foundation as well as Emily Ruben, an Attorney-in-Charge at Legal Aid and Catherine Shugrue dos Santos of Sanctuary for Families, who have all been a large part of Sakhi’s work to enable justice.
R: Why do you think this film is important and what kind of impact do you hope it will have?
C: This film is important because it exemplifies the importance of utilizing multi-media instruments to show the impact of essential organizations like Sakhi. The accessibility of film enables groups like Sakhi to send their message to educate, enable, and empower women to seek help. Offering messages through an aesthetically-pleasing and emotive medium providers viewers with a glimpse of who Sakhis are and how they working to nourish the organization.
The amount of material gathered from the making of this film has gifted Sakhi with a very new sort of archive. The dialogue created throughout the production of this video has given Sakhi an extraordinary tool that may be revisited time and again to continue the focus and vision Sakhi has maintained for the last twenty years. Although I hope viewers appreciate the contributions these individuals have made in order to make this video possible, the greater picture reveals that we all need and deserve a Sakhi.
R: Have you enjoyed this experience, and/or learnt anything about Sakhi through this process?
C: I have enjoyed every moment of this process. The experience in its entirety has been truly humbling. The amount of time and work given to Sakhi in order to make it grow carries an unprecedented value visible through the work it does. If anything, I learned that Sakhi is about friendship. Lending a hand to offer a comfortable space for everyone, so that they may receive the respect and agency deserved.
With Sakhi’s gala team working tirelessly to create an innovative and fun event, this film is sure to move you and make the night more interesting!