On January 16, Sakhi hosted a convening with representatives from the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI), SAALT, Raksha, South Asian Network, Maitri, and Manavi, all of whom are invested in continuing to work on issues of gender justice that affect our communities. This was a follow-up meeting to the SAWO Convening in 2012, where Sakhi gathered with other SAWO representatives to develop a shared platform of action and respond in one voice to legislation, including sex-selective abortion bans, that disproportionately targets our community. This time, we broadened our scope of action and invited SAWOs to present their work since the last convening and use our collective efforts to identify issues that are greatly affecting our communities.
SAWO representatives joined together to discuss strategy and set priorities so that we can use the combined efforts of the national SAWO network and enact change on the national level. Representatives from SAALT and WHIAAPI brought a unique policy perspective to the space, while SAWOs built strategy based on matters that fall within the realm of gender justice but for which we need to build capacity and resources to address. These issues include immigration and citizenship status, addressing the full spectrum of violence in our work with survivors, health care access and language competency of medical services, issues of racial profiling by law enforcement officials, creating more safe spaces within our communities, and promoting integrative services with allies outside of the community.
Points of Unity
We recognize that while each SAWO works in a unique community, there is power in uniting as a national network of SAWOs that can uplift often-overlooked South Asian voices at the national level. We crystallized a very productive day of conversation into the following mandate:
- We are strong. We are resilient. This is what we want for our communities. We claim our voice and power.
- We are rooted in our community and informed by them
- Gender justice is racial justice
- We own our bodies
- We value all gender expressions
- We honor the complexity and diversity of our community across SES, race, ethnicity, immigration status, religion, geography, age
- We will ensure that people in our communities are safe, respected, and have access to opportunities
- We promote our community’s right to participate in public life
- Ending violence means promoting economic justice, ensuring gender equity, and developing solutions outside of the criminal justice system
We will share the above points of unity with other SAWOs, asking that they join us in solidarity so that we can collectively create tangible change for our communities. We have appointed four regional SAWO representatives to be leaders for the national SAWO network in the East, South, Midwest and West to lead local efforts within the movement. SAWOs plan to take the agreed upon priorities to both the SAALT and WHIAAPI summits in April and May, respectively. We will host monthly conference calls to develop talking points and testimony for these meetings based on both our shared platform of action and points of unity.
This convening was inspiring and powerful. It is rare that SAWOs have the opportunity to come together in the same room. Being able to have the space and time to develop national priorities, create a set of actionable step, and move collectively towards a common goal was truly remarkable. United, SAWOs represent an immensely strong force of change and social justice for the South Asian community. We are excited to move forward together and ensure that South Asian voices continue to be heard.