South Asian forums in US forge coalition, common agenda

June 26th, 2008 - 8:32 pm ICT by IANS  

New York, June 26 (IANS) Nearly 30 South Asian community organisations in the US have for the first time forged a coalition to work on a common agenda, including on immigration, gender equality and access to social services. The National Coalition of South Asian Organisations (NCSO) has released a policy and action agenda that focuses on all key issues affecting South Asian American communities.

Coalition partners range from social service providers, advocacy groups, volunteer collectives working on issues such as racial and religious profiling, housing and economic development, mental health and domestic violence.

The 31 partners include South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), Sakhi for South Asian Women, Sikh American Legal Defence and Education Fund (SALDEF), Manavi and United Sikhs.

NCSO will be coordinated by the Washington-based SAALT.

SAALT executive director Deepa Iyer said: “This diverse group of partners has come together with a clear purpose: to ensure that the experiences of South Asian communities and the issues that they face are addressed in local, state, and national arenas.”

NCSO’s National Action Agenda sets forth the need for linguistically and culturally appropriate services for South Asians, the importance of detailed and separate data about South Asian communities, and a call for comprehensive immigration reform, among other recommendations.

Maneesha Kelkar, director of New Jersey-based Manavi, said: “Manavi was one of the first organisations in the US to address social justice issues in the South Asian community. Since then, many more voices have spoken out against many unspoken issues, but have been largely sporadic and disconnected from one another.

“The National Coalition attempts to bring together these often disparate entities and speak with one voice, a voice that is stronger, a voice that will resonate more, a voice that will be heard loud and clear.”

The Coalition partners also intend to enhance their own work through skills-building training and information sharing about effective practices and models being used around the country. Next steps for the Coalition will include community and policymaker briefings, as well as capacity-building training and resource sharing among partner groups.

NCSO’s launch is the result of many years of regional dialogues and partnerships, a national convening in 2007, and assessment of organisational needs and articulation of shared social justice principles, a press release said Wednesday.

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