As a young girl, born into a Punjabi speaking family in Canada, I often grappled with adhering to many of the traditional gender and cultural roles I was supposed to follow. Women have often taken on the subservient role in the family household and as I became older, I began to challenge those patriarchal beliefs and practices. This led to feeling even more disconnected, to the point where I questioned my own belonging within the Sikh community.
In my early 20’s, my yearning for a stronger sense of identity led me back towards exploring Sikhi. In reconnecting with my spiritual path, I realized that I had misinterpreted the Sikh faith, with the social construction of patriarchal oppression. This enlightenment has encouraged men and women to advocate for social equality through a broader Sikh feminist lens by creating a safe space to share one another’s experiences.
I recently attended a Brunch & Dialogue event in Vancouver. My initial thought when I read the topic of discussion, Sikhi & Acceptance: Feminism, was “finally, this is ‘THE’ conversation I have been waiting for”. Hosted by the Sikh Research Institute, the contemporary and informal talk between Inni Kaur, Harinder Singh and Monika Deol was insightful, honest, inclusive and relevant to modern day thought.
Inni Kaur gracefully set the tone by illustrating the role of feminism within Sikhi. I learned that Gurbani is not only written in the female voice, moreover that Sikhi encourages men and women to challenge the dominant forces of culture and social order. Monika Deol thoughtfully shared the familial and societal obstacles she, as a Sikh daughter, had to overcome in order to pursue her career in the entertainment and music industry. She followed her passion rather than conforming to what was expected of her.
There was audience led Q&A regarding Sikh wedding practices, parenting and how to get children involved in community affairs. Throughout the interactive conversation, I noticed how many people, including myself were nodding in agreement, and I realized that I was not alone in questioning such practices. We continued the discussion into the economical effects of feminism and how to challenge traditional gender beliefs within the family structure. I appreciated the transparency and sharing of personal experiences within the room, which reaffirmed the importance of creating more inclusive opportunities for progressive conversation about Sikhi and it’s community.
As for myself, I am learning to embrace my journey of exploration, as there is no right or wrong way to spiritual knowledge. I am learning that identifying myself as a Kaur is liberating, it empowers me to remain sovereign from any familial name, caste and expectation. We must continue to deconstruct the status quo and challenge the traditional gender roles and cultural practices, which have no place in the Sikh community. The essence of Sikhi is revolutionary, and I am in deep gratitude for the chance to take part in one of many enlightening conversations with SikhRI.
Sandeep Kaur is the founder of She Writes HerStory, a platform created to empower the South Asian community to share their life’s journey. Through the art of storytelling (photography, poetry, workshops) she strives to explore and raise awareness around issues related to the South Asian diaspora. Sandeep has a degree in Social Work with a specialization in Child Welfare, and has worked internationally in the non-profit sector.