Profile – Jasvinder Sanghera

How long in the job? Since 2004.

The most painful lesson I’ve learned at work: The voluntary sector is competitive, with back-stabbing, jealousy and insecurity.

Career highlight: Seeing the difference my work makes to women’s lives keeps me going. I see so much devastation, sometimes it overwhelms me.

Career lowlight: I face opposition and threats of violence from my own community. People accuse me of stereotyping Asian people, but they are in denial about what goes on.

Single most inspiring person I’ve met: Barrister Usha Sood, who defends Asian women and challenges the entrenched ways of our judiciary.

Me and my career: I use my own experiences to campaign for south Asian women escaping domestic violence and forced marriage. At 15 I ran away from an arranged marriage to a man I’d never met, and was disowned by my family and community. Even today my sisters cross the road when they see me.

My sister Robina killed herself when she was 24 rather than leave a violent relationship. We were brought up to believe that seeking help and talking about problems shames families. But domestic violence is a crime and help and support is available.

In 1994 I set up Karma Nirvana, a south Asian women’s project, from my front room, motivated by my sister’s suicide. That was the start and I now work with the charity Refuge. So far we have opened refuges in Derby, Stoke and Burton for Asian women. Services run by the statutory and voluntary sector are for the white mainstream and don’t cater for our needs. I also work with the Home Office, police, social services departments, magistrates, judges and Crown Prosecution Service on Asian domestic violence policy.

Curriculum vitae
2004 Asian affairs manager, Refuge.
2002 Project manager, Refuge.
1997 Became Karma Nirvana project co-ordinator after securing funding.
1994 Set up south Asian women’s project Karma Nirvana at home, while studying at Derby University.

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