Like many organization, NAPAWF, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, expected Hillary Clinton to win the election. They had been planning for a future in which the women they serve — who are refugees, immigrants and citizens — would be able to press for needed policy changes.
Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency has thrown a ratchet in their plans, but not their commitment to justice.
“We were all on the ‘yes this might be the time for us to get our comprehensive immigration reform done,’ right? And then on the reproductive justice side, also, we were also expecting wins,” Satyam Barakoti, the Director of the Georgia Chapter of NAPAWF, said in an interview with Better Georgia.
“We know that the wins are going to be very far and few, and so all of the resources now have been focused on building the base,” Barakoti said of NAPAWF’s plans in a post-Trump reality.
Barakoti, who is originally from Nepal, has always been interested in working with women. She grew up with parents that were committed to her and her sisters going to college and getting a good education, although that isn’t necessarily the norm in her home country.
“Expectations for women [in Nepal] are you become a wife, you become a mother, you stay at home,” Barakoti shared. “But I grew up in a household where not going to college was not an option. Not standing on my own feet was not an option.”
Barakoti cautioned against lumping together Asian people and Asian cultures. NAPAWF works on issues that impact Asian and Pacific Islander (API) women and girls in America, which includes citizens and non-citizens.
“You’re talking about 50 plus countries, you’re talking about, I don’t know, 100 plus languages, and many, many religions, so you cannot just say, “Asian” as one monolithic group,” Barakoti said.
Locally, the Atlanta chapter of NAPAWF is building the leadership of women, which includes cisgender and transgender women, in the communities they serve, as well as challenging the model minority myth.
“We have a leadership development program that we’re running, it’s called Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute,” Barakoti said.
The Leadership Institute is a year long program. The individuals involved are working on a community based project; this year it’s running focus groups to get some baseline information about the experiences and histories people have in their communities.
“We’re actually doing focus groups where we’re talking to other API women about, you know, what are some of the messages you got growing up around race, gender, sex and your agency,” Barakoti explained.
The other project the local NAPAWF chapter is working on is a monthly get-together called, ‘Not Your Model Minority.’
“People are going to come with very different interest levels, and capacity, and confidence with what they can and cannot do,” Barakoti said, adding that this is a way to help people connect with each other, and also help them connect with partner organizations that are already doing some of the work people are interested in.
Barakoti had advice for folks who are not part of the API community, but want to learn how to support them. She talked about taking time to get educated, sharing power and donating money and other resources.
“Read and listen to authors, people, music, actors, who are not white. You have to do a little bit more work, right? But there are tons of non-white, non-US born individuals who live here who create amazing things,” Barakoti said.
If you want some places to start, check out this great list compiled by The Body is Not an Apology.
Sharing power is also an important way folks can support API and other marginalized communities. Sharing power is about the ways people and communities can spread access to resources. It can be easy for folks to just reach out to their immediate community when, for example, their business is looking to hire or their nonprofit is adding members to the board of directors.
“One of the questions you ask yourself should be ‘Who can I bring? Who can I bring with me? Who’s leadership can I highlight today?’” Barakoti said. So, this may look like making sure your organization is hiring people of color (and paying living wages when it does), helping to build POC leadership on nonprofit boards, or making sure marginalized voices are included when you are asked to speak on a panel.
And, locally-based organizations, like NAPAWF, can always benefit from donations. This has been a sentiment echoed by a lot of people of color, who have noted that many smaller, local organizations do not have the resources and the national recognition of groups like the ACLU, which have seen record breaking donations since the election of Donald Trump. And this isn’t about supporting one or the other, it’s about spreading resources around to support everyone.
“There are amazing organizations here locally in Georgia, right, led by women of color. One of the reasons why I am excited to be doing this work is because of the organizations that currently exist,” Barakoti said. “I love it.”
Update: If you want to support some of the amazing work happening in Georgia, here are some of the great organizations that Barakoti loves: