HIGLAND PARK, NJ
The Middlesex County Center for Empowerment, Sneh Arts & Manavi collaborated to host a very special community outreach event to increase awareness surrounding sexual violence. The Middlesex County Center for Empowerment (the Center) is the state designated sexual violence program for Middlesex County. They strive to support and empower survivors and significant others affected by sexual violence, and to help eliminate all forms of sexual violence through community awareness and education. Sneh Arts is a cultural organization promoting and presenting classical arts around the tri-state area that can have a positive impact in the society. Manavi is non-profit organization based out of New Jersey. Founded in 1985, Manavi was the first organization in the United States to specifically address the unmet needs of South Asian women affected by violence.
The perpetration of sexual violence is preventable. However, it starts with awareness building and that was the purpose of this event – to bring this issue into community consciousness and raise awareness about the services offered by the Center and Manavi to support survivors in the South Asian community. Sunny Thakkar of Sneh Arts continues to be dedicated to working with organizations such as Manavi and the Center in organizing and curating outreach events like this to help bring the community together in support of survivors and prevention of the violence.
Representatives from Manavi, Shanti Shah & Amritha Sridhar, helped MC the event and spoke about Manavi’s services. Jennifer Kurdyla with the Middlesex County Center for Empowerment spoke about the Center’s services, before speaking more about the issue of sexual violence with Nahrin Khan. During this presentation, Nahrin Khan shared a survivor’s story to highlight how the experiences of violence and abuse can impact an individual at various points in their lives, from childhood to relationships to parenting. The presentation illustrated the impact survivorship has on individuals, relationships, communities, and society, and therefore the importance of preventing people from perpetrating on an individual, relational, communal, and societal level. Sexual violence prevention involves changing the existing harmful socio-cultural and gender norms that support power imbalance and allow perpetrators to exercise control over survivors. Sexual violence prevention is also about understanding and respecting consent and boundaries, and these concepts are easier to instill at an early age through education. Jennifer and Nahrin urged everyone in the audience to support survivors, to be advocates for change, and to break the silence around sexual violence through conversations and education.
Nahrin Khan, outreach consultant for the Center, said, “When it comes to the South Asian culture, it is important to recognize that there is deep rooted patriarchy that is functioning within the collectivist tradition. For instance, the traditional patriarchal attitude towards women not only contributes to but also maintains that power imbalance. In many instances, women are subjugated, subordinated and subservient, within our communities, and our world view encourages conformity to those traditional fixed gender-based roles creating unhealthy expectations that often lead to violence.”
Following the presentation, attendees were treated to soul stirring classical music and dances by artists from the Indian Diaspora. The presentation was first followed by a Kathak recital by Noah Damer and then followed by a soulful sitar and tabla recital by Abhik Mukherjee and Shivalik Ghoshal. The program ended with a very special Bharatnatyam dance recital by J. Maheshwari.
Dignitaries from the community, as well as music and dance world, graced the occasion to learn more about the grassroots work being done by the Center and Manavi, and also to enjoy the artistic presentation. Prominent community members present included Seema Jagtiani, Joyce Mehta, Minesh Patel, Hemant Bhatt and Dilip Bhatt and they congratulated the entire organizing team and artists. They were thrilled to see people from the community so enthusiastic to learn more about the work being done by the Center and Manavi and wanted to support their mission.
Guests in attendance were appreciative of the informative afternoon and voiced their desire to see more such community outreach events to take place discussing such important topics.
There were countless comments of support and appreciation pouring in during and after the event, not only from the attendees but also from artists that were performing and those who were not able to attend. There were common themes resonating from everyone’s comments: they were thrilled to learn about the work done by the Center and Manavi, and they wanted to know how they can be of help and get more involved. The event was supported by our media partners: TV Asia, World BBTV, Radio Zindagi, Divya Bhaskar & The Indian EYE, Jus Punjabi, The South Asia Times, The Indian Panorama, Hum Hindustani, Parikh Worldwide Media and ITV Gold.