Saheli September Newsletter 2014
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From The Editor's Desk

March 8th marked International Women's Day after a tumultuous year when it comes to women- as victims, survivors, changemakers and leaders. Some of it inspires despair, such as India's decision to ban the documentary film about the 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape, India's Daughter, and the Indian Supreme Court's upholding Section 375 of the Penal Code, which does not consider the lack of consent in conjugal relations (marital rape) as sexual assault. And the UN just released a report showing that 1 in 3 women will be subjected to violence in their lifetime, or more than 1 billion lives impacted.
But some of it gives us tremendous hope, such as the Pakistani girls' education activist Malala Yousafzai winning the Nobel Peace Prize and the publication of “Bello”- a calendar featuring women who have survived acid attacks.

Here at Saheli, we continue with our core mission of serving survivors of domestic violence. We are sad to see our Program Coordinator, Bonie Bagchi-Williamson, leave Saheli, but we wish her the best of luck at her new endeavor. Please join us in thanking Bonie for her service, and please help us to spread the word that we are looking for a new Program Coordinator! Click here to find out more about the position. 
One of the most promising developments in 2014 has been an increased awareness of the importance of mental health in the South Asian community. Self-inflicted celebrity deaths all over the world have tragically headlined the issue. Even India is set to acknowledge the importance of mental wellness at an unprecedented legal level. Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code of 1860 that considers suicide to be an offence punishable by imprisonment is to be replaced by new legislation that finally establishes the seminal role of mental illness and recommends care and treatment for what Saheli’s Kumkum Pareek Malik aptly terms, “emotional wellbeing.”

As always, Saheli’s initiatives and achievements rest on the support of a dedicated corps of volunteers, patrons, and well-wishers. Kumkum Pareek Malik, Neelam Wali, and Farhat Rangwalla deserve special mention in 2014 for their efforts in spearheading the emotional well being symposium and the Walk. We thank each and every Saheli volunteer for their time and dedication to the cause. Together we will continue on our mission to be a friend to women who have survived violence.
Sreemoti Mukerjee-Roy


Saheli relies on your support to provide crucial services to South Asian women and families in need. 
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Upcoming Events

Emotional Well-Being Sabha, March 28th

Join us at the Clarke Middle School for Saheli's second event on Emotional Well-Being, Motherhood: A Demanding and Invisible Journey. 

South Shore Sabha, April 1st

Our South Shore Sabha is now meeting twice a month in Quincy! Join us from 10:30am-12:30pm at Faxon Commons, Quincy. Cick for more information

We're Hiring!

We are now accepting applications for a part-time Program Coordinator. Apply now or help us to spread the word!

Emotional Well-Being and Mental Health Symposium

In 2014 for the first time, Saheli focused on the crucial of role mental wellness in the mind-body context of victims of domestic violence within the diaspora by hosting a symposium on Emotional Well-Being, and Positive Mental Health Awareness on September 14th which attracted over 200 attendees. The Symposium was generously supported with funding and a beautiful venue for the event by Harvard Pilgrim Health Cares Eastern Harmony program. The event brought together a dynamic group of professionals, and members to discuss the many aspects of emotional wellbeing especially, in relation to South Asian immigrants. 
Presenters advocated for the inclusion of cultural perspectives in the interaction between healthcare professionals and patients. Furthermore, the speakers courageously shared insight and research about stigmatized topics in the South Asian community, namely mental illness and domestic violence.

The discourse highlighted the silence surrounding the issues of domestic violence and mental health and the impact of the former upon the latter. The cultural differences between the old country and the new, the traditional focus and reliance on family to take care of illness, tends to add complexity to existing abusive environments. The way out as healthcare professionals emphasized, are early identification of abuse victims and talking about these issues. As Dr. Covino stated, by talking about these issues, society clarifies, educates, and creates consensus. Only then cultural norms may change.

At the end of the day, symposium participants sampled alternative medicine techniques, namely Kundalini yoga, hypnotherapy, crystal bowl meditation, Tai Chi/Qi Gong, acupuncture, massage therapy and reflexology.

Saheli's work with Domestic Violence Survivors

In 2014, Saheli devoted 740 hours to serving 164 clients, of which 115 were Domestic Violence related. These numbers show an overall growth rate in requests for Saheli’s assistance of almost 20% from 2013. 

lick here to find out more about the services Saheli provides

10th Annual Walk Against Domestic Violence

On September 27th Saheli hosted its 10th Annual Walk Against Domestic Violence, supported by the Burlington Police Department, sponsors, and the larger community. About 80 women, men, children, and elders attended the Saheli Walk. DJ Massa provided lively musical entertainment. 
The mela (fair) that followed the walk saw a host of vendors who sold fashionable clothes, jewelry, food and other items, and donated a part of their proceeds to Saheli. Volunteers, police officers and participants transformed the Burlington Council of Aging into a fun-filled fair ground. Participants walked, talked, danced, and enjoyed great food!
SETU performed three short plays about women and abuse at the fair. In addition, Rita Shah organized a successful online fundraising campaign called Purple Purse, an initiative where organizations raise money from their own community and have them matched by the AllState Foundation.
Volunteer Farhat Rangwalla coordinated the entire event with the help of Anjali Patel, Kanchan Chowdry, Deepa Nair and Luluah Safri, and board and staff members Rita Shah, Bonie Bagchi Williamson, Sweta Mepani, Gouri Banerjee and Manish Patel. 

On the Move: Saheli South Shore Community Engagement

In October, Saheli South Shore hosted a table at a Diwali Festival organized by the Vrindaban Preservation Society. About 1800 people attended and a diverse South Asian group of performers participated in the festivities. Brochures on Saheli’s mission, along with handouts about South Shore Sabha, Saheli’s Men Against Violence Program, and the Economic Empowerment Program, were distributed.
Saheli South Shore Sabha held its Halloween Trick or Treat Costume Party also in October in the Media room of Faxon Commons in Quincy.  Organized by Vandana Sharma, Saheli’s South Shore Coordinator, sixty-five families showed up during a 2-hour span and signed up for events organized by Saheli Sabha.  Brochures and information on Saheli’s work were exchanged while the children had fun showing off costumes, engaging in arts and crafts, and of course the Halloween favorites tricks and treats. 

The South Shore group meets twice a month in Quincy at the Faxon Commons. Click here for more information!

Men Against Violence Campaign Event

The Saheli Men Against Violence Program held a successful event in November at the Burlington Council of Aging. Funded by the Saffron Circle and led by Ramesh Advani along with Manish Patel and Pradip Tandon, the event featured keynote speaker Craig Bohm-Norberg of Jane Doe Inc.’s White Ribbon Campaign. The Phallacies, of UMass Amherst Men and Masculinities Center presented skits that focused on men’s attitudes and behaviors towards women and the challenges ahead for change. Over 30 people participated in brainstorming ideas for effective projects for 2015 that will sensitize men to issues of violence against women. 

White Ribbon Day

In March 2015, Saheli participated for the fourth year in a row at Jane Doe's White Ribbon Day at the Massachusetts State House. Sahelis Rohit Chandra, Zarina Memon and Ramesh Advani attended. They are proud to be leading the cause of reimagining manhood in the South Asian community of New England.

Check out Jane Doe's new White Ribbon Day Public Service Announcement Video!


Presentation at the International Conference on Masculinities

On March 6th, Sahelis Ramesh Advani and Joya Banerjee, along with colleague Craig Bohm-Norberg from Saheli's partner agency Jane Doe Inc., presented on the Men Against Violence Program at the International Conference on Masculinities at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York, NY. This 3-day conference was organized by The Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University, partnering with the American Men's Studies Association, MenEngage and Man Up. The subject of the Conference was "Engaging Men and Boys for Gender Equality". This was held to coincide with the 2015 International Women's Day which also just observed. It brought together global experts on masculinity, with a wide range of topics from engaging men to prevent violence against women, fatherhood, homophobia, campus sexual assault, and more. Dignitaries included Gloria Steinem of Ms. Magazine, the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlabo-Ngcuka, the actor Sally Field and Yahoo’s Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In
The conference examined issues as diverse as HIV risk reduction, boys development, violence against women, supporting women's reproductive health and rights, and supporting expressions of fatherhood. There were over 600 participants at the conference from many countries and we were especially heartened to meet male leaders and activists from India who spoke of positive men led programs and activities that have been sparked and have taken hold especially after the Nirbhaya tragedy of 2012.

Mehndi Celebration

A big thank you to Sahelis Farhat Rangawalla, Luluah Safri, Durriya Doctor, Masooma Bhaiwala, Sweta Mepani and Bonie Bagchi Williamson for organizing our sold-out Mehndi Event on March 1st. The venue was packed and attendees enjoyed mehndi hand-painting, shopping for desi clothes, jewelry and accessories by high-end vendors, music, dancing and of course food. Proceeds from the event went directly to supporting Saheli client services. One of the outcomes of the event Saheli is most pleased about was our ability to attract a greater diversity of South Asians including Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and others.

Volunteer Appreciation Lunch

A big thank you to Sahelis Farhat Rangawalla, Luluah Safri, Durriya Doctor, Masooma Bhaiwala, Sweta . In January, volunteers Neelam Wali and Sweta Mepani organized a lunch to thank Saheli's most hard-working and committed volunteers. The lunch was by invitation only and held at Saffron Grill. 30 Volunteers shared lunch and conversation, and made plans for Saheli's future growth. 

Computer Classes Began March 4th

Saheli's free, popular, weekly computer classes began on March 4th and will be until May 20th, held at the Waltham Public Library. Saheli provides computer classes to clients and the community as part of our mission to empower South Asian women and families. For survivors of domestic violence, computer skills can greatly improve the prospects of finding a job and regaining independence.

Stay tuned for information on the next session, which will begin this summer, or write to Deepika Madan at

In Other News

  • In February, Saheli received a renewal of generous funding from the Lenny Zakim Fund to improve its capacity to serve abused women in the South Asian community.
  • In November 2014, Saheli began its strategic planning process with a retreat with consultant Hilary Marcus. The goal of the retreat was to include new voices: hence, many advisory committee members and other leaders were invited. About 30 people attended the morning retreat, followed an afternoon session just for board and staff. Their ideas now form the foundation for the Strategic Plan for 2015-2017, which includes hiring new staff, further training for staff and DV advocates, empowering staff to manage Saheli operations and coordinate a large pool of volunteers, and increasing Board involvement in fundraising and outreach
  • Five Saheli domestic violence advocates met for a capacity building workshop in October. They discussed ethical issues in dealing with South Asian clients and developed revised protocols for Saheli’s domestic violence work including ways to interact with perpetrators, types of funds available and criteria for distribution of emergency funds. Saheli Rita Shah trained advocates in the new features of the domestic violence database. This work was funded by a professional development grant from Community Health Networks Area 15.
  • Saheli continued to participate actively in mental health forums in the Greater Boston area and made its presence known at the Stakeholders meeting for Mental Health in the Asian Community. Organized by Chien-Chi Huang of Asian Women for Health, over thirty Asian providers, clinicians, and researchers in mental health were invited to the meeting held at Tufts University to discuss mental health issues specific to Asian immigrants. Saheli Gouri Banerjee serves on the Asian Mental Health Initiative which is currently developing a website for Asians about mental illness. WGBH TV and Asian Women for Health, are designing the website.
  • Saheli also continued outreach to the Greater Boston communities through hosting tables and distributing literature. Sahelis Manisha Prasad, Meenakshi Garodia and Gouri Banerjee participated in the Indian Folk Festival and Bazaar in September in Newton City Hall, organized by Newton Community Pride. Sahelis Gouri Banerjee, Kumkum Pareek Malik and Rita Shah also participated in the Indian Community Health Expo organized by IMANE and held at the Swaminarayan Temple. Saheli Vandana attended 2014 CelebrAsians Benefit Fashion Show, a fund raising gala organized by Asian Women for Health (AWFH) in October.
  • Asian Women for Health organized a conference on Controlling and Preventing Diabetes, on January 10, 2015. Geared toward Asians the conference focused on why diabetes is an emerging health concern for Asian-Americans and how to prevent, manage and control this chronic disease. The plenary speaker was Dr. George King, Director of Research at Joslin Diabetes Center. Sahelis Pratibha Shah and Sonal Khakar made presentations and a number of volunteers managed a Saheli table.
  • WGBH TV and Asian Women for Health, are designing a website with the goal of providing mental health resources for Asians. Saheli has been invited to participate in this program. 
Mailing Address:
Saheli Boston
P.O. Box 1345
Burlington, MA 01803

Meeting Group Location:
Burlington Public Library
22 Sears Street
Burlington MA 01803

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