Many barriers for South Asian women in US

June 14th, 2008 - 10:44 am ICT by IANS  

New York, June 14 (IANS) Testifying before the New Jersey governor’s panel on immigrant policy, a South Asian women’s rights organisation has said linguistic and cultural barriers as well as the lack of information prevent many South Asians from accessing critical social services such as healthcare and law enforcement. Manavi, a New Jersey-based body that works to end violence against South Asian women living in the US, also pointed out that the anti-immigrant sentiment coupled with the fear of deportation resulting from official directives such as on undocumented women reporting incidents of abuse, has forced many South Asian women to stay in abusive situations.

Maneesha Kelkar, director of Manavi, spoke Wednesday to the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Immigrant Policy, which hosted a public hearing welcoming comments and suggestions from community organisations and members of the public in order to better integrate the growing immigrant population in New Jersey.

The recommendations Kelkar made to the panel include introducing a state-wide initiative to address issues around domestic violence, especially as they affect immigrants, improving language access to social services by increasing the availability and quality of trained and supervised language interpreters, and improving cultural access to services through cultural competency training about South Asian communities.

She also suggested revisiting ordinances that adversely impact a section of the immigrant population and encouraging feedback from community leaders and practitioners in their respective areas of expertise, as well as from immigrants who have faced the impact of various policies.

Manavi runs a wide variety of programmes to ensure that women of South Asian descent in the US can exercise their fundamental right to live a life of dignity that is safe and free from violence. Its services include individual counselling, legal clinics and referrals, support groups, court and medical accompaniments, and transitional housing.

Manavi serves some 300 abused South Asian women each year with a variety of culturally competent and linguistically appropriate services, besides training mainstream agencies in cultural competency.

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