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‘Breaking the Silence’ To Tackle Family Violence

June 2004
‘Breaking the Silence’ To Tackle Family Violence

?Breaking the Silence' To Tackle Family Violence

Raksha, Inc., an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization, is helping local South Asian women and men take action against domestic and sexual violence. The organization's new ?Breaking the Silence' initiative encourages South Asian survivors of violence and allies to speak out against these abuses.

While there are more South Asians in Georgia than ever before, few resources exist to meet the needs of this linguistically and culturally diverse community. Despite the challenges, Raksha aims to openly disrupt the perception of South Asians as a model minority by addressing taboo subjects: domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual abuse.

The organization's ?Breaking the Silence' initiative will be spearheaded by New Voices Fellow Sonali Sadequee.

Sadequee is one of 15 New Voices Fellows who will take on challenging leadership roles at small nonprofits across the country this year. The Academy for Educational Development's New Voices National Fellowship Program, (www.newvoices.aed.org) helps individuals from very diverse backgrounds develop the leadership skills needed to confront the tough problems that impede social justice in America.

Sadequee's desire to help South Asian women comes from her own past. Growing up in a traditional Muslim Bengali household, Sadequee was expected to remain silent about issues like family violence. That's all changed.

"It has become my life's mission to serve women and children survivors of family violence. It is in much of my activist work that I find personal empowerment and fulfillment," says Sadequee.

In 2004, New Voices will enable small nonprofit organizations like Raksha, Inc. to bring in committed activists with fresh perspectives and new ideas in exchange for a commitment to mentor the Fellows and give them a voice in the organization.

"AED is developing a training ground for a new generation of social justice leaders in the nonprofit sector," said AED President Stephen F. Moseley.

The fellows will work in nine sponsored fields including: racial justice, international human rights, women's rights, HIV/AIDS, reproductive rights, migrant and refugee rights, peace and security, foreign policy, and international economic policy. The program is made possible through funding from the Ford Foundation.

One of the many accomplishments of previous New Voices Fellows is the drafting of California's paid family leave legislation, the nation's first such law, which takes effect in July 2004. Another is a $5 million reparations judgment from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for the surviving victims of a massacre of more than 260 civilians in Caracas, Venezuela.

New Voices is designed with the belief that solving complex problems requires the creativity and dedication of leaders with different styles and competences as well as varying cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds.

AED received 327 applications for this year's awards, signaling a strong interest and need for this type of support in the nonprofit community. The 15 finalists were selected by a panel of 12 national experts in social and economic justice. There are currently 90 New Voices Fellows.

"New Voices Fellows have personal stories to tell - stories that speak of commitment, sometimes struggle, and always the desire to change the communities in which they live," said Moseley.

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