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Seminar on Empowering Overseas South Asian Women


On Friday, October 11, 2013 to mark the International Day of the Girl, the Consulate General of India, New York organized a seminar on ‘Empowering Overseas South Asian Women”, in association with the Embassy of India Washington DC, Prof. Surendra Kaushik, Helena Kaushik Education Foundation, South Asian Women’s rights NGOs - Sakhiand  Manavi,andFriends for Good Health.


The Seminar was attended by about 150 people which included representatives of various NGOs, civil society groups, representatives of various Indian Associations in the tri-state area, academia, local political leaders, media persons and eminent members of the Indian community.  



Deputy Consul General, Dr. Devyani Khobragade gave the opening remarks and welcomed the guests. Consul General, Mr. Dnyaneshwar Mulay introduced the speakers, and briefly spoke on the specific problems faced by South Asian women, including Domestic Violence, Desertion by spouses and encourageddiscussion on possible ways to empower the affected women with the support of Government. of India, the Indian American Community, and the legal system of United States of America. He spoke about promoting gender equality and focusing on identifying and redressing power imbalances, giving women more autonomy to manage their lives.


The Panelists consisted of judges from District and Supreme Courts of Nassau County - Judge Hope S. Zimmerman, Judge Chris Quinn, and  Judge Joy M. Watson. They were accompanied by Steve Cohn ESQ, Matrimonial Lawyer, Shivratan, Counsellor Community Affairs Embassy of India Washington DC, Ms. Tiloma Jayasinghe fromSakhi for South Asian Women, Ms. ShamitaDasgupta fromManaviand Prof. Surendra Kaushik, Chairman, Helena Kaushik Education Foundation,  who also moderatedthe seminar. 

The Panelists shared their views, experiences and measures taken to deal with issues of domestic violence, abuse and empowerment of South Asian women.The main challenges identified were that of cultural sensitivity around reporting of abuse, problem of split jurisdiction that Indian women living in the US suffered from, lack of awareness of safe houses and other legal help available to Indian women from the US government, and finally, gaps in pro-bono or subsidized follow up legal help and rehabilitation costs, which are substantial in the US. Problems faced in gaining children\'s custody and abuse faced by older women from their children were also discussed.

The panelists agreed that applying culturally sensitive approaches can serve as the key to advancing women’s rights while respecting different forms of social organization. Community support and activism on this issue was identified as a primary important factor.The necessity of conducting further such seminars by the Indian community organizations and leaders so as to increase awareness of violence and marital abuse, spreading cultural sensitivity for dealing with different cases of women empowerment across all levels, etc. were emphasized.It was also felt that addressing women’s issues also required recognizing that women are a diverse group, in the roles they play as well as in characteristics such as age, social status, urban or rural orientation and level of education.

As part of the proposed action to be undertaken on feasible ways of dealing with the issue of Women Empowerment, Consul General Dnyaneshwar Mulay proposed starting a Women\'s Help Centre, with the help of Governmental and Non- Governmental support through Indian Associations in Tri-state  area. Such a centre could provide shelter, conduct educational and empowerment programs and bring together various actors who could address the grave issues faced by many immigrant South Asian women residing in the US.

The seminar concluded with a Q&A session, where members of the audience contributed by sharing their personal experiences and appreciated the efforts of the Consulate in organizing this Seminar.Consul General thanked all participants and requested their support in taking further action on this issue of utmost importance and concern.


Please click on the link below to see more details of the event.