By Haider Ghiasuddin
BURLINGTON, MA–The Harry Dow Memorial Legal Fund has awarded a $10,000 grant to Saheli, a non-profit organization whose mission to fight domestic violence and improve the life of South Asian families in New England.
“The Harry Dow Memorial Legal Fund gave Saheli $10,000 to have us get training in a state run program called SafePlan, and to appoint an intern who can accompany women who are not fluent in English to the police and court,” said Saheli President Gouri Banerjee.
Statistically speaking, women experience far more danger at home than they do on the street. This is as true in the United States as it is everywhere else. It is clear that we don’t talk about domestic violence enough, and such silence helps maintain the present-day reality that too often leaves women without justice, human rights, and community support.
The pursuit of justice and support is made harder for immigrants who face additional barriers of language, race, religion, culture, poverty, and immigration status. Each and every one of us in the South Asian American community must ask ourselves what more we can do to help improve access to the American legal system and support those who are most disadvantaged.
With access to justice in mind, Saheli was founded in 1996 to serve and empower South Asian survivors of domestic abuse in eastern Massachusetts. Over the last two decades Saheli has helped provide survivors with life saving legal aid services across Massachusetts, referrals to Asian American attorneys, interpreters, victims witness advocates, as well as safe shelters.
The Dow Fund has been a well-known pioneer in improving Asian American access to the legal system. It was established in 1985 after the tragic death of Harry Hom Dow, who was the son of Chinese immigrants and the first Asian American to be admitted to practice law in Massachusetts. In defiance of the intensifying xenophobia of the McCarthy era, Dow dedicated his retirement years to social work dealing with the issues facing both Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood and the South End neighborhood that raised him. The Dow Fund uses its endowment in the spirit of Dow’s public service to fund countless projects and services devoted to disadvantaged immigrants.
Saheli is grateful to the Dow Fund for supporting its programs. By the end of 2016, Saheli will have helped 200 women, as well as their children and elderly parents. As we expand services to more Asians from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan, and the Maldives, the need for funding at Saheli has become even more urgent. Without Saheli’s services many South Asian women in Massachusetts will fail to gain custody of their children, or find themselves stuck in a violent domestic environment unless they risk becoming homeless, losing their immigration status, not to mention deportation.
We strongly urge you to support Saheli’s cause in whatever form that you can. It is critical that each and every one of us gets involved in creating a safer, healthier, and a more just society. There are many ways to support us. You can donate any amount, large or small, to Saheli at www.saheliboston.org/donate and sponsor a specific program. Or, just as importantly, you can volunteer your time and skills! We urgently need the help of immigration law, family law, and criminal law attorneys to help clients. Please call us at 866-472-4354 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about our current volunteer needs. We are extremely grateful for everyone who has supported us already, and everyone we hope to gain after today!
(Haider Ghiasuddin is a Saheli volunteer and Dean’s Fellow and Master’s candidate at Harvard University.)