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Raksha, meaning "protection" in several South Asian languages, is a Georgia-based nonprofit organization serving the South Asian community. Our mission is to promote a stronger and healthier South Asian community through confidential support services, education, and advocacy. We are dedicated to fostering healing, empowerment, and justice for survivors of violence. Our values are deeply rooted in the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We acknowledge the power of community in facilitating healing and fostering change and are committed to providing culturally competent services for survivors that respect the unique identities, cultures, faiths, and languages of our very diverse community members. Established in 1995 by volunteers, Raksha was the first organization in the Southeast to address the needs of South Asian survivors of violence and remains the only organization specifically serving South Asians in Georgia. Over the years, we have broadened our services to include culturally competent therapy, wraparound services, and economic empowerment programs. We have evolved into a trusted partner and advocate for our community by continually raising awareness about violence and advocating for the rights of survivors in our community. Raksha is more than a service provider; we are a community builder. Our work extends beyond providing support services to survivors of violence. We believe in the power of community to heal, empower, and create change and strive to create a community where everyone is safe, respected, and valued.
About the Organization:
$1 MILLION - $2 MILLION
Although the South Asian population is the fastest-growing group in the Atlanta metro area, community members are often overlooked, resulting in a lack of accurate and meaningful representation (SEEN). Our community, comprising over 150,000 immigrants and their descendants from various South Asian countries, faces unique challenges to accessing services such as cultural stigma, language barriers, and limited knowledge about their rights. These challenges are exacerbated when they become survivors of violence, and their voices (HEARD) are often silenced due to cultural and societal barriers. The local Rohingya communities are even more overlooked and underserved. Even within refugee serving organizations, their linguistic and cultural needs are underrepresented due to the fact that Rohingya caseworkers are mostly male and often serve as gatekeepers to services. Many refugee-serving organizations also do not provide domestic and sexual violence services, leaving a significant gap in linguistically and culturally specific domestic and sexual violence education and direct services for these communities (UNITED). This lack of resources limits their access to vital support and hinders their empowerment (EMPOWERED), restricting their capacity to fully understand their rights and make informed decisions about their lives. One of the culturally specific issues that arise are incidents of early teen marriage. Youth who enter into these marriages and parents and communities that continue to encourage, support, or pressure youth into these marriages are unaware that they are breaking the law. They may only learn about the law when the teen has given birth to a child or someone raises concerns about statutory rape when the husband is considerably older than the teen. Women and girls often believe they must comply with the wishes of men in their families and do not know that they can refuse to get married and have a right to refuse sexual acts in relationships. The limited data we have highlights the scale and scope of this issue: over 61% of Rohingya women who experience child marriage are more likely to justify incidents of intimate partner violence (“Attitudes to and experiences of intimate partner violence among Rohingya women who married before eighteen years of age”).
Raksha provides services and outreach in ten languages and utilizes interpretation services for other South Asian languages, ensuring that our diverse community is SEEN and HEARD and can access culturally and linguistically competent counseling and wraparound services. Our advocates provide help with safety planning, economic empowerment, referrals to pro-bono attorneys specializing in domestic violence and/or immigration issues, accompaniment to court proceedings, and advocacy with mainstream service providers (EMPOWERED). In response to the challenges of the past three years, Raksha has pivoted to meet the increased need for financial, rental, and food assistance, providing over $474,000 in emergency financial assistance. This has been crucial in supporting our clients, many of whom were not eligible for stimulus packages or unemployment because they are waiting for immigration relief based on being abused by their spouses or other victimizations. However, this meant that programs such as the Community Liaison program were put on the backburner as we shifted our limited resources to meet the most urgent needs. With this funding, we will rebuild and expand our Community Liaison program, which trains and engages individuals in outreach and education to ensure Raksha’s work reaches as many members of our linguistically and culturally diverse community as possible. We will mobilize Bangla women, whom we are already serving, to engage Rohingya women in addressing gender-based violence within their communities. Due to how Rohingya refugees were resettled, these two communities often share a language. We plan to create a conversation space for groups of 10-15 women to discuss domestic violence and other issues in their own languages. The goal is to build awareness of domestic violence within their communities and offer a safe space for individuals to learn skills to advocate for themselves, their families, and other community members. This initiative aims to unite these communities, slowly building trust and growing the leadership of these women through direct services, advocacy, and trainings. After growing and developing the leadership of these community members, we will encourage them to bring in other community members to join our conversation space, fostering a sense of unity and collective strength (UNITED).