Surrey bands together against domestic abuse with Rakhi Project

Surrey city councillor Barinder Rasode promotes the third annual Rakhi project. Jenelle Schneider/PNG


Home is supposed to be where the heart is.

But with the painful reality of domestic violence and abuse, the familiar saying is untrue for many — and according to Surrey RCMP, more than 3,500 domestic abuse related files were opened locally in 2012 and those numbers only keep increasing.

“The one place people should feel the safest is in their home,” said Surrey city councillor, Barinder Rasode. “I can’t imagine what women who suffer through silence live through … where you’re in a position where you don’t even feel safe in your own home.”

One of the key components of crime prevention is eliminating domestic abuse, said Rasode, so the city is doing its part by launching its third annual Rakhi Project Tuesday.

Rakhi is a tradition from India honouring the relationship between brothers and sisters. A sister will tie a purple rakhi thread-bracelet around her brother’s wrist as a symbol of love and respect and the man will wear it to show he stands with his sister against domestic abuse.

“What we’ve done with Rakhi is that we’ve sort of broadened it and brought it into the Canadian culture,” said Rasode. “The positive message is about honouring one another and showing love and respect.”

And while the tradition stems from South Asian culture, it’s a universal theme, so the city broadened its reach this year by also including Surrey Interfaith.

“The idea that’s captured in the Rakhi celebration is not just particular to one cultural group — it appeals to different faith communities and it’s something we can all learn from and participate in,” said convenor with Surrey Interfaith, David Dalley, adding that eight representatives from different faiths will be at Tuesday’s launch.

Surrey Interfaith organizes meetings with members from Surrey’s various religions, where they’re given the opportunity to have a dialogue and better understand each other.

“(Rakhi) is learning about a ceremony that’s typically done in the South Asian community and yet has such relevance and resonance with the value of people in different faith communities,” said Dalley. “Certainly any religion, or faith community, or spiritual tradition cares about reducing the amount of violence in society.

“Every faith community is working towards peace.”

Surrey’s program even reaches beyond North America, with the purple rakhi bracelets coming from India’s Rajasthan region, from an organization supporting women and girls called Sambhali Trust, where women handcraft the bracelets, which helps provide them with education, skills and financial independence.

“We thought it was just really important to support that,” said Rasode. “(It’s) very symbolic for this program to be empowering women who are now trying to be able to be independent and free from any sort of exploitation.”

The Rakhi Project launches at Surrey City Hall Tuesday at 3 p.m. and the bracelets will be available for $5 at local businesses from June 26 to Aug. 21.

Surrey city councillor Barinder Rasode promotes the third annual Rakhi project. Jenelle Schneider/PNG

“This whole program isn’t really about raising money,” said Rasode. “All of the money that’s raised does go either into producing the bracelets or go back into programs.”

“It’s about creating dialogue and educating people … (It) represents that we all stand together against domestic abuse.”


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