The Brandeis South Asian Student Association (SASA)—a club promoting a safe space for South Asians in the Brandeis community—hosted Mela on Saturday, Nov. 13. Mela—Hindi for Fair—is an annual performance at the university promoting an understanding of South Asian culture, according to a university page.
This year’s Mela celebration was called “Saktiya: The Strength in Unity,” according to the events page. “Saktiya is a Sinhalese word that stands for strength, specifically an inner strength that one possesses to seek for better. The root ‘Shakt’ is etymologically derived in a myriad of South Asian languages, beautifully indicating that the themes of strength and resilience transcend borders and boundaries within the South Asian diaspora,” according to the page.
SASA’s Mela is an annual event on campus, though this tradition was put on hold in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event featured several dances and performances from members of SASA. Student leaders were very excited to be able to celebrate the holiday in person once again and share their traditions with the Brandeis community.
“This past year, that goal has been exponentially more difficult to accomplish. But not impossible. Members in SASA have bridged both physical and virtual boundaries to build community in this past year, and have shown the beauty and flexibility of what we thought were concepts set in stone,” according to the events page.
SASA presidents Sabreen Huq ’22 and Supriya Rani Jain ’22 introduced the charity to which all proceeds from the Mela were donated—Women for Women International: Afghanistan. Women for Women International is an organization that focuses on women survivors of war and conflict by connecting them with resources and support to recognize their power, according to their page.
The presidents explained how, specifically, women in Afghanistan frequently cope with educational inequality, sexual violence, political and economic insecurity and poor health. Women for Women helps these women know and defend their rights, generate income and lead healthy lives, according to the organization’s page.
Women in the program were nearly two times as likely to be earning money, and seven times as likely to have savings when compared to women who did not participate, according to their website.
Donations from those attending the event for the Women for Women International organization could be sent to @SASA2021 on Venmo—a payment sharing tool.
Students and visitors alike attended the event in Levin Ballroom. Tickets were required for entry and were being sold at the ticket booth in the Shapiro Campus Center (SCC), free of charge. SASA also offered a virtual platform to attend the event: individuals who wanted to attend virtually could do it over Zoom. Brandeis students were required to show a green passport, and visitors submitted a modified form of the Daily Health Assessment to ensure that all attendees of the event were in compliance with COVID-19 protocols on campus.