On April 16th Sakhi’s staff gathered at the home of an original Sakhi, Margaret Abraham, who has been a longstanding ally in our 20 years of work in the movement to end violence against women. This meeting, which was contemplated originally as a one-on-one session between Prof. Abraham and Sakhi’s new Executive Director, Tiloma Jayasinghe, developed into a brainstorming session among the entire staff about our combined vision for Sakhi’s future growth. True to the diverse makeup that is Sakhi, the room was filled with varied voices representing Sakhi’s past and future. We were also joined by our newly-hired Economic Empowerment Coordinator whose official start date is today!
All Sakhis who were present shared how we came to be a part of Sakhi. The stories we told as women working in this field were as varied as were the paths that each of us took to reach Sakhi. We realized that our commonality is our dedication and commitment to the communities that we serve and to each other.
A flood of new ideas were raised, with Prof. Abraham’s skillful facilitation. Suggestions on expanding Sakhi’s work included encompassing more preventive measures in our work to end violence against women by addressing dating abuse and reaching out to South Asian youth in general. We raised the issue of needing to cultivate a stronger policy component to our work so that we can affect changes on a broader level, including linking our work to the global movement to end violence against women. At the same time, we highlighted the need to continue to address the immediate needs of survivors of violence, including broadening our reach to our expanding and changing communities.
Professor Abraham provided the historical context to the meeting. We were able to learn how Sakhi was formed and how it has grown throughout Prof. Abraham’s long tenure as a Sakhi supporter. As each Sakhi shared her thoughts, an interesting highlight emerged from the discussion: as South Asian communities continue to grow in the United States into a multi-generational presence, Sakhi must maintain its relevance given this additionally diverse context.
Most of Sakhi’s founders were born abroad and immigrated to the US – whether for work, school or with family. In contrast, most of Sakhi’s staff today are first generation descendents of immigrants. And while the majority of the survivors Sakhi works with are new immigrants, most have children who will grow up here. Within a generation or two, the face of South Asians in America will change and has been changing. Our needs as a community have also been changing. As service providers and advocates, we must ready ourselves to address all of these complexities.
Prof. Abraham created a safe meeting space for us to share our thoughts and we thank her for her hospitality and support. It was inspiring to hear the open minds and willingness to share of all Sakhis who were present. Great momentum was created in this environment. We hope to share more with you about our reflections upon Sakhi’s strategic growth as the year progresses; please keep an eye on this newsletter for more articles on this topic!