Samaanata means Equality. Project Samaanata encompasses Sadhana's work to address gender justice, women's rights and LGBTQI rights, issues and inclusion.
Domestic Violence Advisory Committee
Because of Sadhana’s work in the Hindu and immigrant community, women in crisis, particularly women in abusive marriages, are occasionally referred to us. Sadhana’s Project Samaanata Domestic Violence Advisory Committee is a group of advocates and attorneys who come together to help assist and guide these women, and connect them to the resources they need such as attorneys, shelters and counsellors.
Roli Khare Rastogi
Roli Khare Rastogi is co-founder at Basso & Khare LLC. Ms. Khare Rastogi most recently gained professional training in immigration, family and public benefits law as a Staff Attorney for Legal Services of New Jersey. She developed extensive experience in business immigration law as Legal Counsel for a start-up hedge fund. Additionally, Ms. Khare Rastogi has worked closely with nonprofit organizations as the NJ Voting Rights Fellow for the South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT). Finally, she has extensive experience representing clients in child support litigation as a Staff Attorney for NYC’s Human Resources Administration, Office of Legal Affairs. Ms. Khare Rastogi started her legal career as a Law Clerk for the Honorable Barry P. Sarkisian of Superior Court of New Jersey.
Ms. Khare Rastogi holds a J.D. from Temple University Beasley School of Law and an M.Sc. from The London School of Economics. She holds dual Bachelor’s degrees from The George Washington University. Ms. Khare Rastogi was the Practice Management Co-Chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)- NY Chapter and a member of the Association for India's Development (AID-NYC). She is a board member of the South Asian Bar Association of New York (SABANY), facilitating the Pro Bono Clearinghouse, an attorney referral service for the South Asian community- and faith-based organizations. Ms. Khare Rastogi volunteers extensively with Manavi’s Family and Immigration Law Clinic and has served as a pro bono immigration attorney for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).
Driven by innovative and creative means of social responsibility, Sulekha has ten years of experience in gender justice and economic development. She has worked on gender policy analysis, gender bias strategy, poverty eradication, and gender bias budget matrixes for both government and non-governmental organizations. A passionate leader in gender justice, she is invested in the developmental challenges women face in low-income countries. She has field experience in both New York City and India.
Sarika Saxena is a New Yorker, born and raised, and a second-generation Indian-American. Ms. Saxena is passionate about social change and is active in the community. She hopes to positively impact women who seek the assistance of the Project Samaanata Domestic Violence Advisory Committee. Ms. Saxena brings professional experience in the legal field as a Staff Attorney and Project Manager at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, a civil rights nonprofit. She leads a project that assists uninsured immigrant New Yorkers connect to health coverage. Ms. Saxena specializes in immigration and immigrant eligibility for public benefits. In addition to representing individuals, Ms. Saxena conducts outreach and trainings for healthcare professionals, attorneys, judges, and community members. Ms. Saxena also works on State and City policy matters, including Medicaid eligibility for immigrants and language access issues. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, New York Chapter, and the New York City Bar Association.
Hamel Vyas received a B.A. in Political Science (with honors) from York University, Toronto, and her Juris Doctor from Widener University School of Law. Ms. Vyas began her immigration law career in Buffalo, upon her admission to the New York State Bar. She is currently the Associate Dean for International Personnel, and HR Regulatory and Compliance, at the Mount Sinai Health System where she oversees all employment immigration matters as well as I-9 and E-verify for the health system. She is also the Responsible Officer for the J-1 Exchange Visitor visa program and the Principal Designated School Officer of the F-1 Student Visa Program. She served as immigration co-chair for the South Asian Bar Association, North America, and also served on the Board of Directors of the South Asian Bar Association of New York (SABANY), as well as Vice President; and served on the AILA Board of Governors during her term as chair of the Young Lawyers Division (YLD). Ms. Vyas also served as YLD co-chair (2001–02). Ms. Vyas has spoken and written on various immigration topics. She is the recipient of the inaugural 2014 Pro Bono Attorney of the Year from the SABANY Pro Bono Clearinghouse for outstanding commitment to pro bono legal service for the South Asian community. Additionally, in January 2017, Ms. Vyas was appointed as an inaugural member of the Immigration Affairs Commission for Jersey City, New Jersey.
Domestic Violence Outreach
Sadhana volunteers do annual outreach to raise awareness about domestic violence in Richmond Hill, Queens, NY, where many Indo-Caribbean Hindus reside
Healthy Relationships Series
Through this project, we hope to promote love in all its forms - love of oneself, one's partner, and one's community. Sadhana has conducted workshops in partnership with local organizations and governmental entities to address domestic violence, respect for our LGBTQ allies, alcohol & substance abuse, mental health, and suicide. We aim to open the doors to closeted issues in order to facilitate healing and dialogue in a safe and open space.
Previous partners for workshops have included the Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence, NYC Commission on Human Rights, CONNECT NYC, CADVA, the NJ Arya Samaj Humanitarian Mission, Caribbean Voice, the Rajkumari Cultural Center and the Caribbean Equality Project.
LGBTQI RIGHTS, CONCERNS AND INCLUSION
Our core belief in the notion of "Ekatva" means that we are all one with each other and one with the divine, regardless of gender and sexual orientation.
Listen to Sadhana Advisory Board Member Professor Anantanand Rambachan's talk about this subject. In accordance with our emphasis on social justice, Sadhana has started an initiative to illuminate the rich representations of gender and sexual diversity within Hinduism, and to advocate for the continued celebration of LGBTQI individuals within contemporary Hindu communities. Broad, capacious, and ever-changing, the wide ranging beliefs and practices we call Hinduism have long honored various voices of gender and sexuality. We plan to reanimate those voices by building a database of Hindu mythic stories, sacred scriptures, traditional practices, and academic texts that portray same sex desire as natural and joyful, and that foreground the lives of non-gender binary individuals who are in Hinduism known as tritiya-prakriti – literally, “third nature”. In addition to sharing the time-honored celebration of gender and sexual diversity in Hinduism, we are working on expanding our service to LGBTQI communities by creating a database of Queer-friendly Hindu spaces, including places of worship, pandits eager to perform gay marriages, and Queer community centers for people of South Asian and Indo-Caribbean descent. Ultimately, we aim to share our vision, asserting our contention that the practice of Hinduism is inclusive, loving, and just.
We also share this wonderful message from Professor Ruth Vanita, author of many books including Love's Rite: Same-Sex Marriage in India and the West. Ruth Vanita is an Indian academic, activist and author who specialises in British and Indian literary history with a focus on gender and sexuality studies, and LGBTQI studies. She also teaches and writes on Hindu philosophy.