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Standing with Asian Americans; Taking Action for Equity

Like all people of good will, we watched in horror last week the news of murders of eight people, including six Asian American women, in the Atlanta area. There is no hashtag, there are no words that adequately express our sadness, dismay, anger, and yet lack of surprise that, yet again, immigrants and women of color have been murdered, and their families and loved ones are suffering, because of the racism and sexism endemic in American society. These murders were committed in the context of a year-long rise in violence and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — a rise that despite deep roots in American history was underreported until the killing spree in Georgia forced people to pay attention.

We share this statement today foremost to express our solidarity with those harmed by misogyny and anti-Asian racism, and with all people and organizations working to end these systems of oppression. We also want to use our organizational voice and position to further a conversation about how organizations like EngenderHealth – U.S. organizations whose programmatic work is in other countries – can take action that helps fight racism and sexism at home and abroad.

EngenderHealth is an international organization working to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender equality in India and several countries in Africa. Because our global support office has always been in the United States, the systemic racism and pervasive sexism that are major forces in this country have certainly affected our organization and the lives of our staff who are based here. Understanding and countering these interconnected systems of oppression is essential to being an organization focused on building equity everywhere we work.

The targeting and killing of Asian American women in the Atlanta area last week were horrific reminders of the racism and misogyny that shape our culture and systems in countless ways. As friends and families grieve, we know words are not enough and never will be. We worry that another statement is merely symbolic at best, and potentially performative at worst. Yet, we believe expressions of support and commitments to action against the connected forces of American racism and sexism can serve an important role in changing culture and fighting against discrimination and violence.

So today, we give voice to our anger, we express our sympathies for all who have been targeted by anti-Asian discrimination and violence, and we stand in solidarity with those working for justice. But we don’t stop with our voice. We also take action to be a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization in our own internal systems. Listening to and learning from others, we do our best to clearly state and publicly share our policy on gender, equity, diversity, and inclusion; we have created and implemented tools such as pay gap analyses, we keep improving and expanding the tools, and we share our results; and we talk with others about the importance of diversity in the sector. We share these points not as virtue signals, but in the hopes that they may help other US-based international organizations, and also with the idea that transparency fosters accountability and enables others to challenge us to do better. The dual forces of racism and sexism run deep. If we are upset by extreme acts of violence and terrorism fueled by white supremacist ideology, racist systems, and misogynistic thinking, we must not wait for the next such act to respond. We must take continued action within our spheres of influence to build a more equitable future.

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