2014 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Pooja Dadhania

Pooja Dadhania

Name of Host Organization: Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
City, State: Los Angeles, California
Issue area: Immigrant Populations - Trafficking/Slavery, Domestic Violence
Sponsors: Viacom; Munger Tolles & Olson LLP

The Project

Pooja advocated for survivors of domestic and gender-based violence, such as forced marriage and honor-based violence, through direct legal representation, outreach, and education, with a focus on the South Asian community.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
There is a great need, for dedicated representation and coordinated outreach to assist survivors of domestic and gender-based violence, especially survivors of forced marriage and honor-based violence in Los Angeles. Such survivors, especially South Asian survivors, are a vulnerable and isolated group as language and cultural barriers often prevent them from seeking assistance. Many survivors fail to take advantage of support services because domestic violence is viewed is a “family matter,” and family members may blame them for bringing shame to the family if they seek outside help. Therefore, it is essential to break through this isolation to reach them. Holistic advocacy and outreach are essential to support these survivors by enabling them to escape violence and gain the independence necessary to build their lives in safety in the United States.
Fellowship Highlights: 
In the past two years, Pooja has:
• Provided holistic legal services, focusing on immigration and family law, to over 165 clients.
• Provided full-scope immigration and/or family law representation, to over 50 of those clients.
• Created and expanded referral systems with South Asian community-based organizations and domestic violence shelters to connect survivors of domestic violence and gender-based violence to Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles’s services.
• Developed training materials, and conducted outreach and training on forced marriage to over 120 advocates and service providers in the Los Angeles area to enable them to identify and assist forced marriage survivors.
Where are they now?: 
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Pooja plans to:
• Be a Clinical Teaching Fellow at Georgetown University Law Center’s Center for Applied Legal Studies, an asylum clinic. As a teaching fellow, Pooja will teach classes and supervise students in their representation of asylum seekers.

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