SURREY, BC, Canada—On October 11, 2012, in celebration of the International Day of the Girl, representatives of SAFAR (The Sikh Feminist Research Institute) visited Khalsa School Surrey for a eighty minute dialogue with high school girls on the seemingly obvious question, “What is a Kaur?” The students were however encouraged to ask unobvious questions, share curiosities and frustrations, and explore their sources of strength and pride.
SAFAR volunteers led the discussion on the the status of women in Sikhi as demonstrated through Sikh history and Gurbani. The discussion drew on inspirations from Guru Nanak Dev Jee’s revolutionary stand against injustice, powerfully illustrated in exposés of hypocrisy in Asa Kee Vaar, as well as from the leadership of Bebe Nanki, the tireless service of Mata Khivi, the inspirational strength of Mai Bhago, and other women in Sikh history who were preachers, teachers and warriors.
Students were provided a safe and encouraging environment to raise questions about why Sikh women no longer occupy as many leadership roles within the community. Together, the facilitators and students partook in visioning exercises about a future where women, girls, boys, and men together take effective and inclusive leadership roles in the community.
Facilitators shared personal experiences and talked to the students about following their Guru rather than the trends set by popular culture so as to focus on the truth rather than fleeting popularity.
The students left the seminar with increased power of expression, confidence, and more fearless in their rights and capacity to challenge the status quo of gender inequality in the community that has many insidious symptoms, for example, women being banned from various seva in various Gurdwaras, as well as the shameful records of female foeticide.
The SAFAR facilitators invited these students to a larger conference taking place at the University of British Columbia on October 27, 2012 called “Our Journeys Conference.” (http://www.sikhfeministresearch.org) SAFAR (The Sikh Feminist Research Institute) has organized this conference to explore the intersection of Sikhi with gender. Conference organizers believe that by discussing Sikhi and gender in an open and critical way, the message of equality as revealed and practiced by our Gurus will become all the more evident, showing the uniqueness of Sikhi on the question of gender equality.