Maitri is a domestic violence (DV) agency in the Bay Area that primarily helps women and families from South Asia. Many of Maitri’s clients are immigrants dealing with emotional and physical abuse, cultural alienation, or human trafﬁcking. Survivors in isolated communities can be limited by cultural taboos and closed social circles; they might not know anyone who has experienced DV, or where they can go to find help.
However, the close-knit nature of these communities can also be leveraged to help reach survivors and connect them to the services and supports they need. In 2014, Maitri opened the Maitri Boutique, a retail clothing store serving the South Asian community in and around Sunnyvale, CA.
“The Maitri Boutique sells clothing and accessories for women, men, and children at affordable prices—and its proceeds directly support Maitri’s Economic Empowerment Program,” says Bandisha Shah, Maitri Boutique manager. “Survivors also have the opportunity to work at the boutique,” she adds, “giving them the chance to learn new job skills, socialize, practice their English, and feel more independent and empowered overall.”
"It’s our job to educate the broader community... There’s still a big social stigma around domestic violence. I feel really good that I’m helping to get the conversation started.”
— Bandisha Shah, Maitri Boutique Manager
But raising funds and helping survivors build experience is only part of the Boutique’s purpose—it is also a powerful tool for spreading the word about Maitri’s services and reducing social and cultural stigma around the issue of domestic violence.
“Anyone can walk into our store,” says Shah, “and each time someone comes in, we talk to them about what Maitri does and give them an overview of the programs that we offer. Some people are really surprised and want to become an advocate or get involved. Just like many survivors don’t know what services are available to them, the general public is also unaware of how they can help and get involved in the issue of domestic violence.”
Maitri Boutique is helping spread Maitri’s message not only to survivors, but also members of the community at large, who might in turn reach survivors in their own social circles. It is helping to start the conversation, and with each customer served, the Boutique succeeds in raising awareness about DV, one person at a time.
“It’s our job to educate the broader community,” says Bandisha Shah. “There’s still a big social stigma around domestic violence, especially in our culture. I feel really good that I’m at least helping to get the conversation started.”
To learn more about Maitri Boutique, visit Maitri’s website at http://maitri.org/maitri-boutique/.