Jen envisioned Project SEPIA (Social Engagement Plan In Action) in 2011 after her initial research project in India in 2010.

The effects of India:

Domestic workers constitute one of the most disempowered and exploited class of workers in India, subject to discrimination and marginalization, and often caught in a cycle of poverty and servitude that is difficult to emerge from.  The plight of domestic workers in India was not an issue that Jen had a full understanding of before arriving in Bangalore, Karnataka, last summer. But during her time there, her main focus was a social research project, where with the help of student translators, they interviewed over 200 domestic workers and over 50 employers on the everyday challenges domestic workers face as a low-income labor sector. As they interviewed them, Jen learned about their individual stories and the communities they lived in. She was taken aback by their generosity, lovely spirits, perceptive minds and willingness to open up despite the abuse and hostility directed at them by the wider society. After she left, she knew it would not be long before she returned.

Originally, Jen wanted to disseminate translated summaries of her research so that they would have access to the knowledge their interviews produced. However, her own research findings revealed that over half the women had never stepped into a classroom. Consequently, she began to think of alternatives. such as producing a DVD in the local language that they could watch, or going into their communities and presenting the information in person. However, after careful thought and collaboration, it was decided that it would make the most impact to hold interactive group dialogues to directly facilitate change on a personal and community level.

Therefore, what started out as an attempt to simply give domestic workers access to research information has grown into a 8-week deliberative dialogue project, which is the first step towards a life-long passion project. Our team hopes to continue spreading these social dialogue initiatives throughout India, and eventually branch out to other countries.

 Why go back to India?

These women, who are low-income domestic workers, had such incredible personalities and energy. They are women from all over India, from different states, regions and cultures. They don’t have anything that unifies them except that they are domestic workers, and yet, there is something about them that seems to give them such an amazing spirit. Jen went there to work for them, but it was their personalities and generosity that made her want to go back and continue this project, thus this team and Project SEPIA was born.

 What we hope to accomplish:

Our goal is for the dialogues to have a transformative effect on their lives. We would like the women from these communities to speak up and identify the issues that matter to them personally, such as gender, poverty, class differences, power structures, education and labor. The specific objectives are to have the women themselves identify the problems and challenges they would like to address, and then to come together as a group with the support of an experienced facilitator to discuss new ideas and alternative solutions, offer their thoughts in a participatory consultative format, and strategize on how they can institute these changes in their community.


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