Volunteer Spotlight: Alisha Bhagat

Alisha is passionate about working with organizations to think systematically about a sustainable future for people and the planet. She is a futurist and strategist at Forum for the Future, a sustainability non-profit that works with companies on long-term thinking and systems change. Prior to joining Forum, Alisha was a foreign policy consultant for the US government. She first became an activist through protesting the war in Afghanistan in 2001. Alisha has served on the board of BitchMedia, a feminist media organization since 2016. In the past, she was a Girl Scout troop leader in her community. She holds an MS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a BS from Carnegie Mellon University. When not thinking about and shaping the future, Alisha is an avid gamer and science fiction enthusiast. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, adorable daughters, and loving cat.

1)    When did you first get involved with Sahiyo?

I first became involved with Sahiyo in August 2016, when a friend connected me with Mariya, Sahiyo’s co-founder.

2)    What opportunities have you been involved with at Sahiyo?

I made a documentary back in 2004 called Deen and Duniya that deals with religion and modernity in the lives of Dawoodi Bohra women in Mumbai. One of the topics covered is FGC. The film had been casually circulated amongst friends and family but given its relevance to Sahiyo’s work, Sahiyo asked if they could feature it on their blog so I did a short write up of it, which you can read by clicking here.
Most recently, I helped organize an activist retreat in New York for eleven activists associated with Sahiyo and working on FGC within the Bohra community. It took many months of planning, but we had a really productive retreat where activists were able to connect, find community, and better equip themselves to be change agents.

3)    How has your involvement impacted your life?

Being an activist is very empowering and meaningful to me. When I first found out about FGC in the Bohra community, I felt a number of things: shock, outrage, and helplessness. Engaging in activism is a way to reclaim power and agency. I strongly believe that the future is what we create so if this is something we do not want, we need to work towards making this practice a thing of the past. I’m so glad to be part of a community of people who feel similarly, who share not only the same cultural and religious background but also the same values. My involvement makes me hopeful for the future.

4)    What pieces of wisdom would you share with new volunteers or community members who are interested in supporting Sahiyo?

Start with a small action. Perhaps it is talking about Sahiyo’s work with a friend or sharing a survivor story. Maybe it means hosting an event or attending a workshop. The first step to engage is challenging but doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Think about a way that you could engage and contribute and find a way to do so that is personally meaningful. Also, if you don’t know how to participate – reach out! There is so much we can do together.

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