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Saheli’s “Nirbhaya” Fundraiser A Resounding Success

(This article is sponsored by Masala Art)

Saheli’s “Nirbhaya” Fundraiser a Resounding Success

Saheli, Support and Friendship for South Asian Families, held its annual fundraiser at the Westin Waltham on Friday, September 20, 2013. The event was a joint collaboration between Saheli and IMANE. Meghna Chakrabarti of WBUR volunteered her time as Master of Ceremonies. Two instrumental women, Anu Chitrapu, Chair of the Fundraising Committee, and Manju Sheth, President of IMANE, led the effort to bring this event together. They were joined by a group of dedicated, hardworking, creative women who collaboratively designed and implemented the plans for the event. They reached out to local performers, sponsors, and other volunteers to present a noteworthy event.

The event was sold out a week prior to the event. 380 guests bedazzled the night with their colorful attire. The guests represented the entire South Asian spectrum: successful professionals, homemakers, and lower socio-economic women. Guests attending were from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, including members from the American mainstream. The evening began with a cocktail hour of tasty Indian appetizers. It was followed by an entertainment program that included melodious music and inspiring dance centered around the theme of hope and freedom for women. The program began with a dance called “Asha”, which was beautifully performed with candlelights to represent the light of hope in women’s lives by a group called Lexleher. “Nirbhaya Nirgum,’  a Kabir bhajan, rendered by Mohan Subramaniam and Shraddha Agarwal, conveyed the unique ability to bring one out of a state of despair, into an enlightened state of fearlessness.

The highlight of the program was “Give me Wings” danced by Mouli Pal. It portrayed  a woman’s  quest for freedom to experience the joy and beauty of life. Mouli also performed  a dance to the Tagore song “Ekla Chalo Re,”  which encourages one to continue one’s journey, despite abandonment. “Mile Sur Mera Tumharra,” arranged by Tara Anand, encouraged everyone to join hands against violent crime against women. “Incarnation of Woman” talked about the beauty of women and their role as mother. The theme song ‘Nirbhaya” was choreographed and written for the fundraiser. It was an appeal to everyone to help women live their lives fearlessly. The land where the river Ganga flows, the land that prays to the goddess, the land that produced strong women, shouldn’t that be the land where all women can live without fear?

 The evening was punctuated by Saheli volunteers Manish Patel and Ramesh Advani launching the Saheli Men’s Initiative in their effort to move men from simply being bystanders to actively participating in preventing domestic violence. The aim of the Men’s Initiative is to change social norms within the South Asian community that traditionally looks away from domestic violence as a canker in our society. Using on-line pledges the Men’s Initiative hopes to influence the South Asian men’s views on the issue, until it reaching a tipping point and transforms our community to actively resist violence against women.

 Saheli Domestic Violence (DV) Advocate, Salita Mehta, gave a moving and meaningful speech on her work as an advocate. In her 3 years as a DV Advocate, Salita has helped 150 women. She also shared that there are 3 million cases of domestic violence annually in the USA and that in 20 years there have been 63 cases of murder or attempted murder of South Asian women in the USA. More than 3 million children witness violence in their families and have long term physical and psychological damage due to it. Advocates spend 5 to 50 hours approximately on each survivor: in 2013 alone Saheli advocates have spent upward of 500 hours working with survivors. Further, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan are ranked in the top 5 most dangerous countries for women. It is essential that we, as a community wake up to fight violence against women. In that effort, the evening held a pledge drive. The event raised a net total of $56,000. This money will be used to empower domestic violence survivors in their search for self-reliance. It will be used to both assist them through the process of recovery from trauma and to send them to job training programs with the hope that they will be able to gain employment. The evening ended with a sumptuous dinner donated by Masala Art and tasty Kulfi donated by Sonal Kakkar, along with high-spirited dancing till midnight!

 Fund raising committee included Sumana Bhat, Rekha Singh, Neelam Wali, Sapna Aggarwal, Sumi Manwani, Deepa Jhaveri, Meera Subramaniam and Eshani Shah. Incarnation of Women was performed by Sankar Gangaikondan and Uma Shankar. Mile Sur Tera Hamara was performed by Meena Sundaram,Shradda Aggarwal, Mohan Subramaniam, Sudha Laxmi Rao. They were accompanied by Sahana Srinivasan, Tarun Bangalore, Pranav Ghatraju and music was arranged by Tara Anand.  excellent pledge drive was done by Preetesh Srivastva

Saheli and IMANE thank everyone who attended and volunteered their time and resources to make this event a success. We are especially thankful to Masala Art, DJ Yogi, Shobha Shastry, Neelam Wali and Sonal Kakkar for their generosity in donating their services to the event.

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