by Cassie Jones, Media Intern, Alika Mathur, Media Intern and Ragni Kidvai, Community Outreach Intern
Purvi Shah first heard about Sakhi for South Asian Women while focusing on minority and women’s issues for her University newspaper. After her arrival to New York in 1994, she decided follow her interest in Sakhi by applying to be a volunteer. Contributing greatly to Sakhi’s literacy committee by teaching English to survivors, Purvi quickly developed an intimate relationship with the organization as a whole. Her efforts illuminated the capabilities of Sakhi’s mission and pushed others to take notice of the organizations potential through new forms of advocacy. Her time as a volunteer for a relatively young organization helped cultivate her personal interest in literacy.
As a writer, Purvi was able to work creatively for a cause that really mattered to her. Had she stayed in journalism or academia she would she would never have been able to reach audiences through the visual media which Sakhi has adopted. When asked how her background as a writer helped her succeed at Sakhi Purvi said “One of the hardest things about working to end violence is just being able to give it a voice, and I think that my background as a writer has helped me to start conversations with community members and with people in a way that is less confrontational and more open. Words are part of how I work; it opens up that space for people to respond.”
In 2004, Purvi was asked by the Sakhi Board of Directors to serve as interim Executive Director. Of the many elements brought to Sakhi by Purvi, one in particular stands out: language access through establishing a court interpreter program. Her partnership with organizations such as Justice Speaks and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest is to develop a network that involves “issues, people and movements in a way that actually works together. It’s through working with these issues from a ground level and form a particular base of experience rather than from an ideological vantage point that has made [this network] very powerful.”
When Purvi assumed the role as interim director she was told it would be for a period of six months…that was seven and a half years ago.