The Jahajee Sisters: Empowering Indo-Caribbean Women

The Jahajee Sisters: Empowering Indo-Caribbean Women

Jahajee Sisters employs a mixed methods approach of surveys, interviewing, and ongoing feedback mechanisms to assess our work. We want to ensure that our work is impactful– that we are reaching those who are most vulnerable to gender-based violence (working class, immigrants and gender expansive people) and that we are

The Jahajee Sisters: Empowering Indo-Caribbean Women

Jahajee Sisters employs a mixed methods approach of surveys, interviewing, and ongoing feedback mechanisms to assess our work. We want to ensure that our work is impactful– that we are reaching those who are most vulnerable to gender-based violence (working class, immigrants and gender expansive people) and that we are meeting their needs. When we notice gaps, it gives us an opportunity to improve our outreach strategies to ensure that our spaces are inclusive. Evaluating our success allows us to understand our blind spots and be flexible to redirect as needed. Thus, after all of our programs are completed, we share a feedback form to understand how it went– was it successful or did we need to do things differently? After this assessment, we determine what adjustments need to be made. We also debrief as a team to share learnings/observations. For bigger programs like our Leadership & Empowerment Institute, we include pre-and-post-program interviews with participants. The pre-program interviews collect information about participants’ needs and what they hope to gain, which informs the program design. The post-program interview checks in to see if participants reached the personal and leadership goals they set for themselves. In addition to evaluating the effectiveness of our programs, we engage the larger community to ensure that we are developing programs that answer their needs. In 2020, we held a Feminist Future Forum that allowed community members to share their thoughts and ideas for future programming from us. We also engaged in a strategic planning process in 2019 where an external facilitator received feedback from partners and members. This has informed the strategic direction of the organization. Furthermore, as a survivor-led organization, healing is an integral component to our work. The bulk of our programs create spaces for participants to cultivate self-love as pathways to becoming bold feminist leaders. This of course becomes harder to measure in a qualitative or quantitative way, but we know our work is impactful when we consistently hear from our participants that we have changed their lives through the community of support we’ve cultivated for them. This is always affirming for us.

About the Organization:

Jahajee Sisters employs a mixed methods approach of surveys, interviewing, and ongoing feedback mechanisms to assess our work. We want to ensure that our work is impactful– that we are reaching those who are most vulnerable to gender-based violence (working class, immigrants and gender expansive people) and that we are meeting their needs. When we notice gaps, it gives us an opportunity to improve our outreach strategies to ensure that our spaces are inclusive. Evaluating our success allows us to understand our blind spots and be flexible to redirect as needed. Thus, after all of our programs are completed, we share a feedback form to understand how it went– was it successful or did we need to do things differently? After this assessment, we determine what adjustments need to be made. We also debrief as a team to share learnings/observations. For bigger programs like our Leadership & Empowerment Institute, we include pre-and-post-program interviews with participants. The pre-program interviews collect information about participants’ needs and what they hope to gain, which informs the program design. The post-program interview checks in to see if participants reached the personal and leadership goals they set for themselves. In addition to evaluating the effectiveness of our programs, we engage the larger community to ensure that we are developing programs that answer their needs. In 2020, we held a Feminist Future Forum that allowed community members to share their thoughts and ideas for future programming from us. We also engaged in a strategic planning process in 2019 where an external facilitator received feedback from partners and members. This has informed the strategic direction of the organization. Furthermore, as a survivor-led organization, healing is an integral component to our work. The bulk of our programs create spaces for participants to cultivate self-love as pathways to becoming bold feminist leaders. This of course becomes harder to measure in a qualitative or quantitative way, but we know our work is impactful when we consistently hear from our participants that we have changed their lives through the community of support we’ve cultivated for them. This is always affirming for us.

organizational budget

$100,000 - $500,000

existence for

11-15 YEARS

The Issue:

Indo-Caribbeans are a marginalized and disenfranchised immigrant community in New York City. Beginning in 1838, Indo-Caribbeans were brought from South Asia to the Caribbean to work as indentured laborers after the abolition of slavery. Coerced into a new exploitative and dehumanizing system of bonded labor, this forced migration was a traumatic uprooting and displacement. Furthermore, indentureship had the most brutal impact on Indo-Caribbean women. Far outnumbered by their male counterparts by 10:1, they were relegated to property by men who desired to “claim” the few who were their only option for partnership. As a result, women were abused and murdered in fits of jealous rage. The violence is reflected in reports from that time, where common words describing it were “dismembered” and “hacked” — women harmed at the hands of a cutlass, a tool used by laborers to chop sugarcane. Fleeing social unrest in their home countries beginning in the 70’s, Indo-Caribbeans migrated to New York City forming Little Guyana & Little Trinidad in Richmond Hill, Queens. We are now the fifth largest immigrant group in the City based in South Queens and in areas of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Though we are a sizable immigrant community, we are still under-resourced and little is known about our needs. COVID only amplified this– with one of the highest COVID rates in the City, Richmond Hill was the last to receive testing and vaccination sites. Most importantly, gender-based violence is a severe issue plaguing our community. This is evidenced by the large numbers of Indo-Caribbean women who have lost their lives to abusive partners. In fact, this was the catalyst for Jahajee Sisters starting– we formed in response to the murders of two young women in 2007, 23-year-old Guiatree Hardat and 22-year-old Natasha Ramen. Our work addresses gender-based violence and shifts outdated cultural, patriarchal norms. We support survivors to: 1) heal and become bold feminist leaders; 2) build economic power to self-determine a prosperous future; 3) use art and storytelling to break silences about violence; and 4) organize to win systemic change for the most marginalized in New York.

The Solution:

Jahajee Sisters is a healing and political home for Indo-Caribbeans who have survived or are at risk for experiencing gender-based violence, and we organize with them to achieve gender justice. Our members are immigrant and first-generation survivors, child witnesses, and working class women vulnerable to abuse at home and on the job. Our main programs include the following: Organizing & Advocacy : We meet with our members monthly to organize toward city and state-wide campaign goals and engage in issue-based coalition advocacy focused on immigrant rights, economic justice, and reproductive justice; Community Circles : Our monthly Community Circles are healing & wellness spaces that allow survivors to have a community of support; Annual Summit : The Indo-Caribbean Women’s Empowerment Summit convenes 500 community members and partners for a weekend of dialogue about gender justice; Bi-annual Leadership & Empowerment Institute: This program moves participants through a guided personal change and healing process while supporting them to build their intersectional gender justice analysis and skills for organizing our community; Emergency Fund : We provide micro grants to survivors who are fleeing gender based violence in order to cover critical costs like travel, childcare, rent, and legal support; Case Management : We assess the needs of survivors of gender-based violence in our community, provide emotional support, and connect them to a range of direct services; and Arts & Activism Residency: We house an Indo-Caribbean community artist and support their development of socially conscious art/creative projects that address gender-based violence in order to build awareness about the issue and inspire our community to take action. Additionally, we are completing a needs assessment survey of 200 women and gender-expansive Indo-Caribbeans in order to identify top priorities. Informed by survey results, we will hold a Community Safety Roundtable with partners in early 2023 to dialogue about what government actions can prevent gender-based violence and keep us safe in community-driven ways that do not perpetuate state violence and incarceration. Based on analysis of our survey data and ideas generated at the Roundtable, we will develop a Gender Justice Policy Agenda that we advocate for in partnership with other organizations and impacted communities.

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