After months of reviewing potential candidates, board meetings, and interviews, the Sakhi Board, Executive Search Committee, and staff are pleased to announce Tiloma Jayasinghe as Sakhi for South Asian Women’s new Executive Director. Tiloma stepped into her new role as ED on February 8th and has been lighting up the office with her empowering and energetic spirit since the first day. Her high octane enthusiasm is no doubt a product of the distinguished career that Tiloma accomplished prior to coming to Sakhi.
Most of Tiloma’s professional career has focused on equal rights for women, from her most recent tenure with the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women as a Social Affairs Officer to her earlier work as an associate at private legal firm Mayer, Brown, Rowe and Maw, LLP where she actively worked to promote the development of the Asian University for Women. United by a common theme but nonetheless diverse, Tiloma’s wide range of professional experiences is Sakhi’s fortune. She has acquired familiarity in strategizing across organizations with various agendas and services to build a stronger movement towards social justice. To Sakhi’s grassroots perspective, she brings an advanced approach to engaging individuals, funders and the community. Particularly her experience as a staff attorney to the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, advocating for marginalized communities such as drug users, women of color and low income communities has prepared her to embark on Sakhi’s mission.
Though she admits that there is a different societal perception of the South Asian Community, she is quick to point out that, “there is still a lot of stigma and prejudice and marginalization that they face as women of color, immigrant women and women who dare to go outside the family and make the abuse they experience public”. She firmly believes in the necessity of first seeing social change as a global issue and using this as a principle to guide change across communities. Incidentally these are also the reasons that Tiloma was attracted to Sakhi, she notes, “[Sakhi’s] cutting-edge holistic approach has always impressed me, and the chance to lead this dynamic organization and strengthen and expand its work, is one that I could not let pass by.” She already has a remarkable sense of Sakhi’s history through the board and is creating an agenda to ensure the growth of Sakhi.
First, she explains, “we have to dispel with the myth that this only happens to ‘other’ women.” Domestic violence is an issue that knows no bounds and rates of abuse are so high that unfortunately, everyone is knowingly or unknowingly affected by it. She also has a vision of community engagement, of “[get]ting community leaders to do the work- of speaking and engaging the community”. She sees Sakhi’s mission as providing the tools, support and space for community members to engage in meaningful dialogue with their leaders. This is not, she states, a short term plan and is rather a goal that will develop to fruition over time. However, a crucial part of the process of empowering women is, to Tiloma, about accepting women’s agency and recognizing their capability to make the difficult decisions that are personal strides in obtaining happiness and security. She notes, “You cannot make a woman do anything, it is only when they feel ready…that they will seek the support they need. And our job is always to reflect on their inner strength- the gifts they already have and are using so they recognize it as well.”
Tiloma Jayasinghe comes to Sakhi from the halls of the United Nations and the well appointed corridors of the private sector but it is very obvious that she has a strong sense of Sakhi as a sensibility, a vision and as an organization with day-to-day needs. Board Chair, Tamseela Tayyabkhan, accentuates this by stating, “Tiloma’s demonstrated ability to build partnerships and alliances is a key characteristic necessary for an Executive Director to succeed in the under-resourced field of intimate partner violence. Her positive energy and strategic problem-solving will enable her to overcome the many challenges an ED confronts on a daily basis in order to deepen Sakhi’s impact in our community.” Enthusiastic, energetic Tiloma has a history of social organizing and dedication to the cause of female empowerment that will only help Sakhi for South Asian Women.