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Sakhi for South Asian Women
Sakhi for South Asian Women
Sakhi for South Asian Women
Sakhi for South Asian Women’s mission is to represent the South Asian diaspora in a survivor-led movement for gender-justice and to honor the collective and inherent power of all survivors of violence. We envision a world free from gender-based violence. These values drive our work: ■ Creating sanctuary & a space for healing for all survivors ■ Harnessing survivor leadership, survivor power & collective power ■ Discovering community ■ Ensuring accountability & integrity ■ Committing to humility & adaptability to change ■ Advocating for justice, equity, inclusion & dignity Our legacy is rooted in a need to act against injustice. Five South Asian women founded Sakh in 1989 to fill the void of culturally appropriate resources for survivors of gender-based violence in NYC’s fast-growing South Asian immigrant community. Many leaders in our community have shaped Sakhi’s mission and success since. By serving over 15,000 survivors and mobilizing community members to condemn abuse over 35 years, Sakhi has changed the conversation about gender-based violence in our community. Sakhi’s community was key to the groundbreaking book “Speaking the Unspeakable''—one of the first examinations of domestic violence in South Asian immigrant communities. “What Sakhi did was bring together issues around ethnicity and gender, which were previously not discussed in our communities. They shifted domestic violence from a private family problem to a public social issue.”
About the Organization:
4 MILLION - 5 MILLION
Gender-based violence occurs in South Asian American communities at alarming rates. As high as 2 of 5 South Asian American women report physical and/or sexual abuse, compared to 1 of 4 nationally. According to a report by South Asian SOAR (a national coalition of South Asian gender-justice organizations), among South Asians in the US, 48% reported having experienced at least one form of gender-based violence. The same study also reveals that 38% of South Asians experience emotional abuse, 35% economic abuse, 27% verbal abuse, 26% experience immigration-related abuse, 19% in-law abuse, and 11% sexual abuse. In a 2016 web survey of South Asian adults born abroad and in the US, 25% experienced child abuse and 41% witnessed domestic violence as children. Sakhi works with survivors of gender-based violence —including domestic, sexual, and dating violence; stalking; and forced marriage—who trace their origins to South Asian countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the wider diaspora such as Indo-Caribbean immigrants. Locally, we work directly with survivors in NYC ages six and older, including families and elders. The majority of Sakhi clients are immigrants, Muslim, women of color, and economically barriered. Many South Asians underreport due to shame, stigma, and mistrust of law enforcement. Long-held cultural traditions and gender norms often compel survivors to care for family members, including those causing harm, before themselves. Survivors often report feeling supported by Sakhi staff in court when confronting abusers who are flanked by community members pressuring them to maintain the family and not “embarrass” the community. When survivors in our community choose to come forward, they often face insensitive, discriminatory, or even dangerous social services. Racial and religious harassment in shelters is common and survivors regularly share that staff at mainstream agencies struggle to understand their challenges or experiences. For example, a Sakhi Advocate identified a crucial issue a caseworker at another agency, using an interpretation service, had misunderstood. This was possible because of our team’s language ability and familiarity with South Asian family dynamics.
Today, Sakhi is a leader in responding to gender-based violence in NYC’s South Asian community. In 2022, we worked with over 600 survivors through survivor-centered, trauma-informed, and culturally affirming programs. We offer programs virtually and in-person at two offices accessible to NYC’s South Asian communities. Our helpline, NYC’s only gender-based violence helpline staffed by native speakers of South Asian languages, receives over 1,000 calls annually. We partner with survivors—often for years—to center their stories. Survivors share their personal goals and we collaboratively design action plans with clear roles, steps, and expectations to move from crisis to healing. Our anti-violence program provides immediate crisis intervention and safety planning, with an eye on long-term aspirations. Our economic empowerment program helps survivors create resumes, find jobs, and pursue education. Survivors regularly earn certifications and have recently won new good-paying jobs as aestheticians, medical coders, home aides, school paraprofessionals, bank associates, and more. One of our most popular resources is an in-house fund which provides grants for education and training. Our housing program pairs financial literacy with rent aid to prepare survivors to leave violent homes. Our counseling program promotes psychoeducation, so clients can care for themselves. In addition to addressing individual needs and long-term safety, we have amplified our community's voices to help win policy changes addressing economic abuse, language access in courts, anti-Asian bias, forced marriage, and more. Our staff includes survivors hired from our community to raise awareness and break silence about gender based violence in NYC’s diverse South Asian communities. All our programs are grounded in survivor-centered, trauma-informed, and culturally responsive approaches. A wide body of literature supports using these principles to address the needs, safety and empowerment of survivors. Where research falls short, Sakhi also leads in filling gaps. For example, responding to the dearth of research about South Asian immigrant families affected by violence, Sakhi launched an intergenerational initiative to pilot and evaluate culturally specific responses to family violence.