Committee on South Asian Women

This profile was last updated in 2006

History and Description

The Committee on South Asian Women (COSAW) was founded in 1982 in order to “promote awareness and discussion of issues affecting women in and of South Asia.” Based at Texas A & M University, COSAW is a global grassroots network connecting women from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and their immigrant counterparts in the United States.

Membership and Resources

A voluntary organization, COSAW’s membership is based primarily on subscription to the COSAW Bulletin – a publication supported in part by the Women’s Studies Program at the University. It includes creative writing, essays, interviews, and reviews “on various aspects of women’s struggles and achievements in South Asia and the concerns of first and second generation immigrants settled in North America and elsewhere.” In addition to its newsletter, COSAW’s website serves as an information conduit, offering announcements of talks and events, action alerts, organizational news, and links to related resources.

Outreach

As part of its outreach, COSAW hosts visiting feminists from South Asia, and sponsors resource exchanges with sister organizations in the United States. It also organizes and participates in a range of events, conferences, and seminars, including the Conference on South Asia at the University of Wisconsin and the Pluralism Project’s Women’s Networks in Multi-Religious America at Harvard University. Through its vast network, COSAW is able to provide members with information and referral on issues related to personal and professional advancement, including internship opportunities, scholarship, and activism. The organization also fields requests from journalists covering issues or events related to South Asian women.

South Asian Women’s Organization

COSAW is one of more than 50 autonomous South Asian women’s groups and organizations that have sprung up over the last 25 years in the wake of South Asian immigration. Such pan-South Asian organizing is unique to the context in the United States. COSAW Founder, Dr. Jyotsna Vaid remarked, “We’re in a peculiar kind of position as a group, in that we’re not a community-based group as such, that is, a physical, regional community-base. It’s a grassroots network. Secondly, our constituency or scope is pan-South Asian, including South Asian immigrants. So it’s anyone affiliated with anything to do with the subcontinent, women in particular. And that puts us, right now, in an interesting position, because we’re neither here nor there, in the sense that we’re being affected by events happening in the US as well as in South Asia.”