The story of how our newest Economic Empowerment Coordinator, Payal Hathi, took the position at Sakhi is, in some ways, a familiar one to those of us who have been with the organization for a long time. Payal, like many young women who are tuned to the happenings at service-based organizations doing work in fields that are important to them, had heard of Sakhi’s work through student groups in college. Seeking work in an organization that addresses the issues affecting the South Asian Community seemed like an ideal choice. Given her many years working in international development in settings such as India, she was certain that she wanted to work on issues that were of concern to immigrant populations in the United States, and working in New York City, the melting pot of immigrant communities, was a major factor in coming to Sakhi.
Payal describes the role of Economic Empowerment Coordinator, as, on a very basic level, involving support for women in the struggle for self-sufficiency. Payal’s work entails balancing the immediate concerns of women in crisis and those facing violence with the long-term planning involved in a person choosing to live her life with autonomy. Sakhi’s Economic Empowerment program, including grants for the pursuit of education, facilitates this process. Given Payal’s experience in international development, she envisions the expansion of the assistance Sakhi provides to include, microfinance – loans and grants supporting women’s entrepreneurial efforts. She explains: “Microfinance is another layer of self-sufficiency; another option for women” because of the richness of solutions to problems that women produce. “There are ideas that we’ll never hear about and that we will never explore,” which come from the women themselves. Providing microfinance opportunities can provide another means for women to pursue these unique solutions and dreams. It is Payal’s vision to include this aspect in the programming at Sakhi.
Her career background includes working for non-profits doing development work in India. She helped to grow a volunteer program in India that worked closely with local organizations and helped find placement for young adults who wanted to volunteer their time in India. The building of a network of partners allowed her to learn about a range of issues affecting the local population and the strategies being implemented by NGOs to address the issues. During the same period, Payal worked with a local NGO in Udaipur, India, working with rural women to design a pictorial manual through which they could define and track progress towards their personal goals.
In addition, Payal spent two years with the MIT Poverty Action Lab in India, working on the design and implementation of rural health projects. Payal, eagerly seeking more and more responsibility in her work, likes the idea of doing broader management level work at Sakhi. This will allow for the addressing of what she describes as “the bigger picture” of the forces at play behind many social service needs. “The challenges faced by immigrant communities in the U.S are immense. Having grown up in a South Asian community in the States, I feel a responsibility to join those interested in fighting against the too-often ignored issue of violence against women.”
Payal will be completing a Masters degree in Public Affairs from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs as she works full time at Sakhi. She is passionate about “getting the issues out there in the public domain” so that we can come up with meaningful solutions and we are reminded of the amazing ways in which women facing violence and injustice in their lives have survived so much adversity. “Survivors of violence have done so much on their own and have survived so much in their personal lives. We as women can do so much more than we give ourselves credit for.” She adds that “Not only do solutions to problems come at the individual level, but we are showing that we can solve problems at the systemic level as well.”
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