Shakti is a national not-for-profit feminist organisation specialised in the area of women's development, empowerment and domestic/ family violence intervention, prevention and awareness. We are a specialist provider of culturally competent support services for women, youth and children of Asian, African and Middle Eastern origin. Over the years, the support group has grown from the confines of one tiny room to a national umbrella organisation with 7 member organisations in Central, West and South Auckland, Central North Island and South Island. We work with our communities to strive for intergenerational social change to build futures without violence and discrimination.
Save Shakti Wellington RefugeShakti Wellington opened a refuge in 2014 after the murders of two migrant women in Wellington due to domestic violence - Sarwan Lata Singh and Mei Fan. We knew then, as much as we know now, that those women should have had access to refuge services that understood their cultural contexts. They had a right to access life-saving culturally appropriate support services. We have been advocating and lobbying for government funding for the Wellington Shakti refuge for over 5 years, but there have been major barriers. For Shakti, which has been at the forefront of striving for equality and equity for migrant and refugee women in New Zealand, the refusal to consider this specialist need by the government is totally unacceptable. We have hence begun the public campaign for funding to Save Shakti Wellington Refuge. This is a quote from Wendy Vyas. Shakti’s National Advocacy Coordinator on her experience at a mainstream women’s refuge: “As an Indian this whole concept of “refuge” was very daunting for me. I was at no point explained what was going to happen but was told that I am safe. I did feel safe, but not understood. During this time my family got involved and they wanted me to reconcile. I did speak to the staff at the refuge and she informed me that I can always say no. She was right, however, I felt she had no understanding of anything I am speaking – my culture and Asian values.” This is an extract from a letter addressed to Brendan Boyle (CEO of MSD) and Anne Tolley (Minister of Social Development). Migrant and refugee women deserve better. We deserve to be resourced adequately. We have a right to access culturally appropriate services. #NoEqualityWithoutDiversity #SaveShaktiWellingtonRefuge5,527 of 6,000 SignaturesCreated by Shakti Youth
Pledge Against Forced MarriageInternationally, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18 years old every year. Forced and under-age marriages also happen in Aotearoa (New Zealand). Shakti has dealt with an estimated number of over 70 forced marriage youth cases. However, we feel that this is the tip of the iceberg. Many forced and under-aged marriages go unreported - some of these marriages are not legally registered, sometimes happening overseas or online. The new family violence bill announced in 2016 is currently going through Parliament. This bill includes “coercion to marry” as a specific family violence offence. While these legislative change are important, it might not capture the marriages that are not legally registered but are still culturally binding. Forced marriages are often followed by sexual and domestic violence. If a young person tries to leave the family due to the threat of forced marriage, this can often increase the risk of “honour”-based violence. However, many young women have had to leave their families or their husband’s family because of the threat of forced marriage or due to domestic violence after a forced marriage. This has long-term impacts on their lives and any children they might have. Forced marriages happen across cultures and religions. It is not specific to any one culture or religion. No major world religion condones forced marriages. Forced marriage is a human rights violation. Marriage should involve free and informed consent between adults. Forced marriage also should not be confused with arranged marriages which involve consenting adults. Young people and adults being coerced into marriages are in our communities, they might be at our school, university, workplace, church, temple or mosque. There is a way out for them with your support. Why do forced marriages happen? Based on the cases we have had over the years, we know that gender inequality and the sense of ownership over children (as the property of parents) are the main causes of forced marriages. However, these are some of the specific contexts where women have been forced into marriages: 1. Immigration: many young girls are tricked into going on holidays back to their home country to find out a wedding has been arranged between them and their cousin. They are pressured to sponsored the cousin to come to New Zealand. 2. Preventing girls from becoming “too westernised”: if a young person is displaying signs of adopting more western cultural values or practices, parents may feel that their culture, religion and traditions are being threatened so may force a girl into a marriage to keep them “in line”. 3. "Keeping it within the family" - marriages organised within the family without the consent of children whose marriage have already been decided for them so inheritance stays within the family. 4. Controlling sexuality: preventing relationships with people the parents/communities disapprove of, especially of different religion/culture/ethnicity or if they are same-gender attracted. 5. Rape and sexual violence: parents have forced their children to marry their rapists, as sex outside of marriage can be taboo and the girl may not be able to get married again if she is not a virgin. 6. Poverty: marriage as a means to escape poverty for women who migrate to Aotearoa for marriage because of promises of a better life and education. However, the promises are often deceptive and broken immediately upon arrival. Women get their possessions confiscated and made to do all the domestic labour, not allowed to go outside/study/work. They are given no money and are under constant scrutiny from the husband or in-laws family. 7. Marriage pressures in late 20s based on the idea that there is an expiry date, women over the age of 25 are “leftover” if they don’t get married. What is coercion? 1. Emotional pressure - “my dying wish is for you to get married”, “you are causing my health to suffer”, “If you don’t get married, your sisters can’t get married” 2. Physical violence or threats of physical violence 3. Threats of disownment 4. Taking young people overseas under false pretences 5. No informed, free or transparent consent - the decision has already been made, e.g. being told "you're going to get married when you turn 16" 6. Marriage involving any minor 7. Threats of suicide 8. Using ‘family honour’ to pressure someone to marry 9. Being put under house arrest, cell phone and internet confiscated, not allowed to talk to anyone or to go out of the house, being taken out of school until the young person complies. This campaign is supported with funding from JR McKenzie Trust. References  https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/84189235/Strangulation-coercion-to-marry-and-family-violence-to-be-new-crimes-with-tough-sentences-Govt492 of 500 SignaturesCreated by Shakti Youth