RATTAN’S RUMBLE: Shashi Assanand – A profile in courage and service to society

Shashi Assanand
Shashi Assanand with the prestigious YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Community Building on Tuesday. Photo courtesy YWCA

THIS week, nationally renowned registered social worker Shashi Assanand received the prestigious YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Community Building.

And just last year, Shashi received the 2013 Diversity Awards’ Service Recognition Staff Award by AMSSA (Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of British Columbia).
But before I reproduce the citations from the two awards which will spell out her outstanding achievements, I want to personally congratulate a woman I have admired since the mid-1990s for her amazing courage and dedication.

Shashi has written for The VOICE Group on and off since the 1990s on women’s issues. She was never afraid to voice her opinions whenever I did a write-up or a news item in connection with violence against women.

As a new immigrant myself back in the 1990s, I learned a lot from her about what was really happening in the South Asian community.

She has always been dignified and deserves all the recognition and praise she is now receiving.

THE YWCA citation read: “A refugee herself, Shashi has dedicated the last 40 years to empowering immigrant and visible minority women so they can thrive in Canadian society. Her vision and initiative led to the development of a unique model of services for immigrant and refugee women dealing with family violence. As a social worker, a counselor, an educator and a passionate advocate, Shashi has touched the lives of thousands of immigrant women and children. She has generously shared her expertise and vision with government agencies and NGOs, helping make Canada more inclusive and multicultural. Shashi’s bold vision, boundless energy and unwavering dedication have earned her immeasurable respect in her community as well as provincially, nationally and internationally.”

THE AMSSA citation last year read: “Shashi Assanand has worked in the immigrant settlement sector as well as the anti-violence sector for over 35 years. She founded the Vancouver and Lower Mainland Multicultural Family Support Services Society (VLMFSS) in 1991 and has been the executive director for the past 22 years. The creation of VLMFSS, is the pinnacle of Shashi Assanand’s achievements. It exemplifies her ability to solidify her commitment to the well-being of immigrants and refugees with a mission of providing culturally sensitive services to immigrant and visible minority women and their families facing family violence.

“Shashi recognized the significant role culture played in moving women from a life of violence to a life of nonviolence and the need for cultural specific strategies. The culturally sensitive counseling, support, advocacy and bicultural parenting workshops provided by the workers in nearly 24 languages is a result of this vision. The unconditional inclusion of cultures has not only recognized and validated the communities we serve, but created a safe harbour for all victims of domestic violence from these communities. This model of service encompasses the values of both multiculturalism and human rights and is a living model of an inclusive workplace comprising of a global workforce.

“VLMFSS’ employees assist women in accessing services provided by the social and the legal systems and work with their staff becoming metaphorically the bridge between the services and the women who are victims of domestic violence.

“Shashi has provided leadership through her untiring efforts and participation in many committees, advisory bodies, consultations, making presentations and writing media articles, to bring the perspective of the immigrant and the voice of those who cannot speak for themselves to law makers in a bid to create a fair and equitable society.”