Over many years it has been a proud tradition at SobelCo to highlight a nonprofit organization in this newsletter every month. For September, it is our pleasure to introduce you to Sakhi.org.

Since it opened its doors over 11 years ago, Sakhi for South Asian Women has represented the South Asian diaspora, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the West Indies, and Africa, in a survivor-led movement for gender justice. Launched by a team of five  South Asian women—Anannya Bhattacharjee, Mallika Dutt, Tula Goenka, Geetanjali Misra, and Romita Shett,  Sakhi (which translates to “woman friend”) has steadfastly remained committed to supporting survivors and their children through a combination of holistic, integrated efforts including—but not limited to—direct services, advocacy and organizing, technical assistance, and community outreach. 

Survivor led and survivor centered

Although there were already significant numbers of religious and cultural organizations serving the South Asian population in the United States at the time the organization was formed, none of them addressed the previously taboo topic of gender-based violence. This left few, if any, options for abuse survivors.

The founders knew it was essential to provide assistance for victims while at the same time raising awareness and dispelling the stigma related to abuse.  Working together they anticipated they could accomplish their ideals by educating the community on both the dangers of ignoring abusive situations and their main cause, which is rooted in centuries of gender oppression and gross inequality.  These survivors knew from experience that getting to the bottom of why behavior occurs was critical to the success of their efforts.  

The strength of visibility

By lifting the veil of suppression and broadcasting the message through public discourse, these women were able to force an honest dialogue while advocating for those who were previously unheard.  Margaret Abraham, author of Speaking the Unspeakable: Marital Violence among South Asian Immigrants in the United States, has noted, “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.”

Advocating for justice, equity, inclusion and dignity

By breaking the cycle of violence and confronting the deepest causes that perpetrate gender injustice, Sakhi can transform attitudes. By doing so they shape the significant behavioral changes that must be made in order for gender abuse to end. Working with a combination of allies and partners that includes employers, ethnic media, government agencies, policy-makers, religious institutions, and schools, they are able to permanently overcome all obstacles.

Empowerment is profound

As an intersectional, intergenerational survivor-led movement for gender justice, Sakhi is a sanctuary and a place for healing and gaining emotional well-being for all who seek to begin a new, liberating journey with healthy outcomes that include accomplishing life changing goals, such the promise of achieving:

  • Safety
  • Freedom from violence and fear   
  • Housing, food, and healthcare security
  • Economic independence
  • Agency for self-determination
  • Access to education
  • Emotional well-being
  • Hope
  • Ownership of one’s present and future
  • Access to happiness
  • Leadership in the advocacy space

Since its founding in 1989, Sakhi’s leaders have realized that breaking the silence is just not enough. In order to eradicate gender abuse, injustice and inequality. As such, over the decade they have continued to extend their reach, broaden their goals, enhance their vision and hold each other and their allies accountable to make their mission a reality. In embracing this responsibility, they seek to increase their impact by:

  • Continuing to improve the quality and effectiveness of their programs
  • Measuring the quantitative and qualitative impact of their work
  • Promoting visibility of their work and survivor successes
  • Exercising leadership in the gender-justice movement
  • Fully aligning their organizational culture with the Theory of Change
  • Securing multi-year funding to ensure long term sustainability and impact of their movement

It has been an honor to shine the SobelCo spotlight on this essential organization this month.  We invite you to visit their website for further information at https://www.sakhi.org