Critical Language Scholarship Program | Addressing Gender-based…

Addressing Gender-based Violence: Yasin Khan

Yasin Khan (CLS 2014 Urdu), a CLS 2014 Urdu Alumni, worked as a Violence Prevention Educator before entering graduate school to obtain a Master’s in Public Health. Through her work, Yasin learned that gender based violence is the leading cause of injury to women in America and around the world; and that women in immigrant communities are particularly vulnerable to abuse due to cultural and linguistic barriers preventing women from seeking help.

Yasin was shocked to find that there was a severe lack of services available for non-native English speakers, particularly in her own community of South Asian immigrants. Her goal was to help fill the gap between vulnerable women and their access to safety by combining her Urdu language study with her Master’s in Public Health. Yasin originally wanted to use an Alumni Development Fund (ADF) to create an informational pamphlet synthetizing the existing gender-based violence prevention literature available in Urdu to include information about legal rights and visa information specific to the United States. One example of this would be including information about how to obtain a U-Visa if deportation is a concern.

The ADF gave Yasin the opportunity to work with a private tutor to create, edit and pilot test a culturally and linguistically relevant guide, entitled “It’s Our Responsibility to Stop Domestic Violence”, for Urdu speaking immigrant communities. Through the course of her research, Yasin found that all of the existing Urdu guides were targeted to women attempting to flee dangerous situations. These guides did not address how and why communities should support victims of violence. Furthermore, Yasin found that the stigma around domestic violence often manifests itself as victim blaming, making it difficult for victims of violence to gain the support within their community necessary to seek safety.

To account for this finding, Yasin shifted the intended audience for the pamphlet from victims of violence to Urdu speaking immigrant communities themselves. Through pilot testing her pamphlet with local domestic violence shelters and agencies serving her local Urdu-speaking community, Yasin found the strategy to be extremely successful. The pamphlet worked in shifting the focus from blaming the victim to the community’s responsibility to keep its members safe. Yasin notes that communal support is acutely important among insular immigrant communities as lingual and cultural barriers keep members reliant on each other.

Yasin Khan is eager to share the pamphlet with Urdu speaking communities around the country with various local and national domestic violence organizations.

The Alumni Development Fund in 2014 awarded funding to 65 alumni from the 2014 cohort who submitted proposals for activities to assist with their continued language learning and/or professional academic development. Priority was given to applications that incorporated or explained how their activity would have a wider impact on others (e.g. students, CLS alumni, community).

2014 ADF projects covered a wide scope of topics and activities. Some projects focused on improving the awardee’s CLS language skills in order to indirectly affect the public through the creation of language materials, improving one’s effectiveness at their workplace, and sharing their research and CLS experience at national conferences. Other projects directly impacted others, for example through the creation of an international pen-pal exchange, language tables at universities, and community events highlighting their host languages and cultures.