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Sakhi for South Asian Survivors

Stories of Impact

A group of people standing on a stage in front of NYSE and Sakhi for South Asian Women branded screens, posing for a photo, some with hands raised and smiling.
Courtesy of Sakhi
Sakhi ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange, celebrating its 35th anniversary and Women's History Month

Over the last year, the organization formerly known as Sakhi for South Asian Women underwent a rebrand process that resulted in a new identity.  According to Executive Director Kavita Mehra, the new name Sakhi for South Asian Survivors embraces a more inclusive identity and honors  the nonprofit’s mission of creating a space of healing and liberation for survivors of violence within the South Asian and Indo-Caribbean diaspora.

“It puts survivors at the center of our work, and it recognizes that all members of our community can potentially experience harm, and that experience of harm is not linked to a particular gender identity,” she explained. “Sakhi is a healing space for all.”

The idea of being a safe haven for those experiencing harm has always been Sakhi’s north star. Since it was founded 35 years ago by five South Asian women, the organization has understood the need to respond to its community’s needs through “a feminist organizing lens.”

One of the things that I find so amazing about the work that we do is that in spite of the fact that we are hyperlocal here in New York City, we carry a voice that is spread across the country. Kavita Mehra, Executive Director

Back then, Sakhi’s founders understood the need to respond to the overwhelming experience of gender-based violence that they were encountering. Looking for guidance, Sakhi’s founders met with the leaders of New Jersey-based Manavi, the oldest South Asian American survivor organization in the country. Through those conversations, they realized that they needed to start their own organization back home in New York.

“One of the things that I find so amazing about the work that we do is that in spite of the fact that we are hyperlocal here in New York City, we carry a voice that is spread across the country,” Mehra said.

Sakhi’s vision for transformative change comes through the combined efforts of advocacy, community mobilizing, and direct work with survivors.

Sakhi’s work is intersectional and intergenerational, working with survivors starting at the age of six all the way to older adults. Sakhi’s robust programming includes legal advocacy, food justice, economic empowerment, youth empowerment, mental health counseling programs, and housing.

Three individuals pose together outdoors at a crowded event under a tent. They are dressed in casual, warm clothing; one of them holds food. A table with items and a sign is partially visible behind them.
Courtesy of Sakhi
Sakhi connects with local organizers and participates in community events and resource fairs around NYC

Being able to work with survivors at this scale has understandably necessitated a growth in personnel. What used to be an 11-person team has now grown to a team of nearly 50. In 2020, Sakhi extended its facilities beyond Manhattan to Queens, and in 2023, it established a physical space in Brooklyn.

As the borough with the second highest concentration of the South Asians and Indo-Caribbeans  in New York City, Mehra emphasized how important it is for Sakhi to have an office in Brooklyn. The support that Brooklyn Org has provided the organization since 2018 was key to helping them establish this presence.

BKO’s relationship with Sakhi began in the midst of the Trump administration, when Muslim New Yorkers in particular were being targeted and discriminated against.

Recognizing that our community is part of the fabric of the Brooklyn community was validating. Kavita Mehra, Executive Director

“There were members of our community who were already experiencing a level of trauma from their experiences of gender-based violence, and the Trump administration’s xenophobic policies created an additional layer of fear and trauma for our community,” Mehra said.

Brooklyn Org was a voice pushing against this hatred and exclusion: “Recognizing that our community is part of the fabric of the Brooklyn community was validating,” she emphasized.

As Sakhi enters its new chapter following its rebrand, Mehra admits that this moment presents continued opportunity for Sakhi, and the best days are still ahead for the organization.

While the safety and security of the South Asian and Indo-Caribbean community continues to ebb and flow in the current unstable political environment, Mehra is determined to always meet survivors where they’re at, which might mean pivoting at a moment’s notice.

“We’re constantly trying to keep our finger on the pulse,” she said. “It’s about continuing to deepen our services and enhancing our response to the needs of the community.”

Courtesy of Sakhi
Sakhi offers programming for youth and adult survivors of gender-based violence
A group of women in colorful traditional attire pose together in front of a SONA branded backdrop. They are smiling and appear to be at an event.
Courtesy of Sakhi
Sakhi members at a Diwali celebration

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