In order to understand the way I look at life, you need a little background on my
My Nanaji came to Canada from Punjab to teach Mathematics at a new university
located in northern Ontario, called Laurentian in 1962. This was a time when the
Punjabi population in Canada was very small, and it was almost non-existent in the
north. This led to a very unique upbringing for my Mom and her siblings (including
learning French!). One thing that was always emphasized, as it is with most Punjabi-
Sikh households was that education is extremely important. This message was not
limited to just my uncles, but impressed upon my mother as well.
Fast forward to 1995, I was born into a family as the third girl. Community members
saw this as a disappointment, but my parents challenged that narrative. They chose
to be bold and distributed sweets to celebrate my birth. This shaped who I am today.
My parents have always taught me to be proud of who I am and to never limit myself
because of my gender.
Even with supportive parents, I always felt the pressure to prove my worth to my
community – whether it be through academic achievements, or community
involvement. At times, I find this pressure challenging and at other times I use it to
fuel the things I do.
Everyday we have discussions about the different kinds of privileges that exist in our
society. While growing up, I realized that due to a combination of factors, I was
“luckier” than a lot of my peers. As I grew older, I realized that it wasn’t luck, it was
privilege that I was inherently born with.
How do I combat my privilege? I work to give back in any way that I can.
In 2015, I was accepted to @worldsikhorg ‘s Sikh Youth Leadership Institute. I
started the weekend feeling intimidated, as I was one of the younger attendees.
However, this gave me the opportunity to learn not only from the guest speakers, but
also from my fellow attendees. I left the weekend feeling inspired and ready to tackle
issues that our community faced head-on.
In 2016, I contacted @PinkLadoo (make sure to give them a follow!) and helped
them expand their mission in Ottawa. Their work always inspired me because of the
parallels between their mandate and my own story. In our pilot year, we visited 25
South-Asian families to start a serious conversation around gender-based traditions.
Now these conversations take place regularly via social media.
Another initiative I am passionate about is increasing political engagement of women
in the political sphere. When door-knocking, women often tell me their husbands will
tell them who to vote for. Why can’t women in our community be a part of these
discussions and make these decisions?
I am the first to admit that the work that I do in the community does not focus on a
particular cause or goal, it is simply to do good.
To all the young women out there, if you are interested in getting involved with a
particular cause, don’t wait. I know with myself, I struggled to put myself out there
because I feared failure. But once I did, I realized the immense benefits of giving
back to my community.
All it takes is that first step.