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Maitri Milpitas fundraiser garners $500,000

October 21, 2008 22:52 IST

Maitri, one of the first organisations in America aiming to empower South Asian women, raised over $500,000 at a fundraiser in Milpitas, California.

This is one of their major fundraising events and raised $2 million for a permanent transition home for women and children, said Mukta Sharangpani, the president of the 17-year-old organisation.

At the event, attended by Maitri co-founder and bestselling author Chitra Divakaruni, she added, "What began as an answering machine service in a desi kitchen in Sunnyvale is now a robust organisation. We receive over 2,000 calls a year ranging from serious physical battery to emotional abuse and everything in between.'

Actress Tabu and couturier Pria Kataria Puri provided the glamour for the event.

Dubbed the Capital Campaign Gala, the September 19 event raised money from ticket sales for a fashion and entertainment event that evening, along with donations and a silent auction of designer couture and vacation getaways.

"I am glad to be here today and what Maitri stands for," Tabu said. 'I hope to live in a world where gender is not a cause of discrimination, and men and women co exist loving each other.'

Divakurni talked about how Maitri 'has come a long way since its humble beginnings 17 years ago when there was a lot of negativity in our community regarding the issue of domestic violence.'

In an essay on her association with Maitri, Divakaruni the author of many bestsellers, including The Palace of Illusions, had recalled how her traditional upbringing in Calcutta had 'insulated her from the problems women faced.

"Coming to the US gave me the distance I needed to look back on my culture with objectivity," she wrote, 'to pick out what I valued and realize what I didn't agree with. One of the latter was the double standards in effect in many areas for women, and I strove to remove these from my life.

"This was also the time I started observing carefully the lives of other Indian women around me," she continued.

"I noticed that many of them were still caught in the old value system that gives a man precedence and power over them and excuses all their wrongs, and that, away from the traditional joint family that kept a watchful eye on things, such women were even more vulnerable."

In 1989 and 1990 she came across several women who were victims of abuse, doubly victimized by the fact that they were unfamiliar with the workings of American society and had no one to turn to, she wrote.

Divakaruni recently said that right from the start Maitri was intended to help women empower themselves, giving them not only legal assistance and building their self-esteem but also putting them in touch with organizations that allowed them to train for jobs that would eventually lead them to be financially independent.

Maitri was the first South Asian service of its kind on the West Coast. It was following the lead of an older, New Jersey-based organization, Manavi, which is now in its 23rd year.

Divakaruni, who has continued working with empowering organizations for women elsewhere, especially in Houston, where she teaches, says working with Maitri taught her 'valuable and harrowing' things.

'I have seen acts of cruelty beyond imagining,' she said, but she was also happy to see hundreds of abused women taking their lives in their own hands and offering a helping hand to other victims.'

The September 19 event was attended by many well-known entrepreneurs in northern California, including Talat and Kamil Hasan and Vish Mishra, the recently elected TIE president of the Silicon Valley chapter.











Arthur J Pais