Women survivors of domestic violence face many struggles that diminish their ability to leave their abusive relationships. Aside from the family violence that they are subjected to, they also have to deal with the ongoing effects of the trauma that impact their emotional and psychological state. There are many reasons why a woman may make the decision to stay in a relationship that is abusive, but for immigrant survivors, cultural and language barriers augment the impediments to reaching autonomy. Many of the survivors who come to Sakhi have limited English proficiency. They also face complications stemming from immigration status laws which adversely affect the lives of women and children. Many also hope to achieve more educational training and are currently in situations where they are financially dependent on their abusers and are unable to work. These factors increase the apprehension felt by a survivor who may ponder the idea of leaving but questions her ability “to make it on her own” both financially and emotionally.
We see many cases where survivors do leave the home. Spousal abandonment is another phenomenon that affects many of our survivors. The persons on whom women are financially dependent abruptly disappear, and these survivors must suddenly prepare for the initially daunting realities of what it means to become financially independent for the first time. Women in these situations find themselves with limited or no financial or social resources and must get their bearings very quickly.
Sakhi’s Economic Empowerment program alleviates our survivors’ struggles as they embark on the road to self-sufficiency. We are making a long-term investment in the resiliency and abilities of women to survive hardships. The array of services we provide include job readiness assistance, computer and financial literacy workshops, and scholarships such as the Swarna Chalasani Fund.
Through the Swarna grant, we provide financial aid to survivors who aspire to continue their education and pursue avenues towards economic self-sufficiency. Since its inception in 2002, many survivors who have demonstrated interest in pursing higher education have been awarded this scholarship. The grant has offered them an opportunity to enroll in educational institutions within various fields of study.
Recipients express optimism about attaining gainful employment and the positive impact this grant has had in their lives. We all recognize that without the grant these opportunities would be much more difficult to attain.
One survivor, SG, who is a Swarna Grant recipient states that this grant was a blessing to her because as she may not have been able to continue going to school without it. SG is one example of a woman who left her abusive home and endured isolation with in her community because of her choice. SG accepts that she now has difficult financial and social concerns to handle as a result of her decision. It has been difficult for her to make ends meet, yet she asserts that the concept of economic empowerment gives women control of our lives and increases our self-confidence. She expresses how much the grant has helped her enhance her education as well as increase her chances of securing a well-paying job. The grant reflects Sakhi’s long-term investment in women.
SG also comments that “South Asian women do not deserve to be mistreated,” highlighting the cultural context of certain injustices. SG’s resilience and powerful words demonstrate the importance of helping women to achieve some level of autonomy. SG expresses her wish that Sakhi continue to provide scholarships to survivors, especially those with immigration complexities who may not be able to receive help elsewhere. Her wish includes increasing the grant awards to cover a recipient’s full tuition cost, as this will allow out-of-pocket expenses for tuition to go to meeting other needs. SG notes the far-reaching effects helping one woman can have: “I want to be a role model for women in my community. If they see that I can do it on my own then it may help them believe that they can too.”
This year Sakhi will hold a Swarna fundraising event in which funds are specifically raised to support this program and to provide financial assistance to survivors of violence. In the last grant cycle, we gave out a total of 5 Swarna grant awards. Through the generous donations of Sakhi supporters, our hope is to be able to raise more money so that we can offer more survivors the opportunity to reach their goals of self-sufficiency and empowerment.
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