I grew up during a time when divorce was really frowned upon. My SHEro mom, raised me as a single parent with hardly any English and working 2 jobs. My SHEro taught me to be strong, be aggressive, and most importantly to be courageous in my beliefs and use my voice. She broke the ceiling of accomplishments by instilling in me the harsh realities we face as women, and especially as women in the South Asian community. She also taught me the power of seva, we walked about 5km to pape gurdwara every Sunday rain or shine to do seva and also be with sangat. This weekly activity allowed me to learn at an early age that the most important thing in life is to help yourself by helping others. Whether its through sadness, or joy, I always try to find the lesson and the lesson is always to help ones who need a lift.
The stereotypes have been tested time and time again from childhood, early adult life, marriage and now as a mother to two grown sons. I have made certain that my voice is heard when I think I am being treated unfairly. I still recall after I got married, my mother in law asked me politely to change out of my sweats and put on a suit with a gold set, except my partner was walking around in shorts and a t-shirt, and it being the 3rd day into my new married life, I knew I had to stand up for myself even then, so I questioned her request and indicated I would only change if my husband also put on a tie and suit, suffice to say I stayed in my sweats. The only way to fight the gender stereotypes we face as women is with our voice. Being South Asian adds layers of oppression of being treated differently than our male brothers; we aren’t smart enough, strong enough, we can only do certain chores, we have different curfews, we are married off earlier to name a few. We are looked on as a burden from the day we enter the world for some, while males are celebrated with “pegs” (alcohol) and the delivery of sweets. Things are slowly changing with the young females saying, NOPE, it’s not right or fair, a prime example of this is the Nach Baaliye crew ladies who dreamt about and initiated the Pink Ladoo idea. The Indian feminist site is also working on breaking down the gender equality issues and questioning the gender roles and how they play out in our everyday life. .
The opportunities for women need to be identical to what men are provided. Feminism to me is all about fairness, yet it can be conceived as such a loaded word which is heavy and untrustworthy for many, especially men. Regardless of our skin colour, nationality, education, background, hijab, no hijab, turban, no turban etc., the choices we make as women should not hinder our growth or take away our rights especially when it comes to our careers. Feminism is all about being treated fairly as our counterparts, this will happen if we are given similar opportunities to excel. Seeking the seat at the table, and if there’s no seat, building your own table.
My biggest accomplishment badge that I wear proudly is “mom” I am lucky to have two beautiful souls who I am privileged call my sons. I am involved in many initiatives in the community. Seva (Selfless Service) is a very important part of my faith and I live, breath and take action whenever the opportunity presents itself. I am lucky to be part of the Seva Foodbank family, I sit on the Board and we are currently working on some of the most appreciable work since I began my journey in 2011. We are working on building a community kitchen to teach skill and also break bread with our community we serve and the community that lifts us. We are also working on a refugee pilot project to sponsor refugees from overseas, this project is very busy and super rewarding. I sit on the Board for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Peel, another agency that is close to my heart, serving the most important people, the children who will one day become the future leaders. I have recently joined Khalsa Aid Canada, I am learning my way around the expectations with this team, and a bucket list item for me is to go overseas to do some Seva and help build the name and accomplish great local initiatives in our community.
I also take time out to raise much needed funds for many different causes that are very close to my heart, most important women and cancer. Having lost my own mother at the age of 53, I raise money, run, walk, participate in fundraisers all in her memory, after all she was my SHEro and I keep her flame alive daily by supporting the cause and also supporting the women who are in my circle who have been touched.
My hope for the future for women, to have the space to make significant changes in all walks of life. More women in executive positions in the corporate world, politics, medicine, the arts, and so on. 2017 brought out a movement of women who had the courage to share some very deep hurtful truths with the #METOO movement and yet the movement still hit roadblocks with cases being dismissed and women still being blamed for the wrongs they experienced. The struggle to be heard and respected is a monster that is fierce, but, we need to teach our young girls ferocious skills so they can accomplish their dreams and challenge the prejudices and inequality they encounter. The lessons starts with all of us from the moment a female is born. Let’s surround our girls with love and the tools they deserve so they can use the strength we instill to fly once they are ready. One day women will stand shoulder to shoulder at home and outside the home, I have faith in that dream.