Mission and History

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Sakhi for South Asian Women exists to end violence against women. We unite survivors, communities, and institutions to eradicate domestic violence as we work together to create strong and healthy communities. Sakhi uses an integrated approach that combines support and empowerment through service delivery, community engagement, advocacy, and policy initiatives.

Founded in 1989 by a group of five South Asian women – Anannya Bhattacharjee, Mallika Dutt, Tula Goenka, Geetanjali Misra, and Romita Shetty – who were from diverse professional fields such as banking, film, law, and public health, Sakhi, meaning “woman friend,” was created to fill a critical need — in spite of an abundance of religious and cultural centers, professional associations, and ethnic-specific groups within New York’s large South Asian immigrant population, there was no place for women to address the silenced subject of domestic violence. Through Sakhi’s efforts to serve survivors and mobilize community members to condemn abuse, Sakhi has changed the conversation on domestic violence in our community. 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.” Sakhi structured its programming to follow a two-pronged approach in addressing domestic violence within the South Asian community:

  1. We create a safe place with a full range of culturally-sensitive, language-specific information, support, services, and advocacy for South Asian women facing abuse in their lives; and,
  2. We work to inform, actively engage, and mobilize the South Asian community in the movement to end violence against women forever.

Sakhi serves South Asian women who trace their backgrounds to countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the South Asian Diaspora (including the West Indies and Africa). These women come from diverse backgrounds including age range, religion, ethnic origin, economic and educational background, language spoken, and immigration status. After decades of working with and being an integral part of our community, we at Sakhi know that in order for families to be healthy and happy, violence and oppression must be eliminated at the heart and root of our communities. We know that community members themselves must be aware of, and participate in, the dialogue in order for true and sustainable change to occur. Our vision of a society without domestic violence lies within the community’s ability to take ownership in the fight to end violence against women.