Sikh Women: Making History

Each year, SikhNet hosts an online youth film festival – to cultivate interest from Sikh filmmakers from around the globe. The online film festival is an excellent way for individuals to dialogue about issues affecting us personally and as a community. One of the films, titled Khalsa Has No Gender, is made by a group of young teen-aged Sikh women living in England and the goal of the film is to address gender [in]equality within our community. The film was striking to me for several reasons. Firstly, that these young women chose to use the medium of film to discuss this very important issue and secondly, that the concept of gender discrimination and inequality is prevalent in the conscience of very young Sikhs – Sikhs who are perhaps even 3rd and 4th generational living in the disapora.

305476_10150286660628170_515193169_7933261_1234383439_n.jpgWhile on one hand it’s disheartening to acknowledge that perhaps change is slower than we have hoped it to be (displayed by the film), there is – on the other hand – reason to be optimistic. In just over a week, scholars and community members from across the globe are gathering in Toronto for the very first Sikh Feminist Conference, “Our Journeys”, hosted by the Sikh Feminist Research Institute (SAFAR).

[Our Journeys is] an opportunity for scholars and community members alike to openly connect, converse and engage in a dialogue and critical thinking about gender related issues that demand to be voiced, and heard, in order to be addressed.

The line up of topics and speakers is remarkable. The keynote speaker, Professor Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh is well known for introducing the term Sikh feminism and will share a Panel with Geetanjali Singh Chanda and Mallika Kaur toexplore how Sikh feminism is defined, its origins, the present-day reality and how it can be an impetus for social change.

Following the Keynote Panel, scholars will present their work in the following Panels: Disrupting History,Gursikhi: Intersections, Parallels & Gaps,Lived Experiences: Sikh Women, Work & Society,Violence: Causes and Solutions, Herstory: Bringing Untold Narratives Of Womanhood To The Forefront,Gender and Sexuality: A Lived Reality Unrecognized, and Diaspora and Culture: Resisting Social Pressures.

For a long time now, we have been yearning for a space for individuals to gather to discuss issues affecting Sikh Women and we have been eager to celebrate Sikh women’s research. Something that was once simply an ideal that we strove for, is finally here and it is not to be missed. We encourage community members to attend this conference – ensuring that this type of work will continue to grow so that our young sisters and daughters can finally make films about celebrating equality in our community!

Of note, the conference is free, with a suggested donation of pay what you can (so that this work can continue to grow!). However, please do register in advance! Detailed program information can be found here.


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18 Responses to “Sikh Women: Making History”

  1. Sounds like a good conference… why are flights to North America so darned expensive :(

  2. brooklynwala says:

    So excited and inspired that this conference is happening. Sad that I can't be there in person for this historic gathering. Also really impressed that it is free/sliding-scale to ensure it's accessible to all.

  3. kantay says:

    Will there be discussion of the creation and definition of the label hyper masculine to describe Sikh masculinity and the effect this may have on fixing Sikh men into an untenable and unfair label that by and large is being placed onto them largely without their participation? Will there be Sikh men there on the panel to discuss and respond to discussion about Sikh men? Or will they still be defined and examined in abstentia

  4. kantay says:

    Maybe Brian can explain why Sikh men are a problem and need to be cut down to the right level of masculinity bc then they will stop beating and killing women

  5. kantay says:

    Though I may in the future it shouldn’t be down to one person, it should be a commitment of organizers to ensure represention. That is how conferences are conducted, particularly progressive conferences

  6. SinghIsKing says:

    A great initiative!! We need these everywhere

  7. kantay says:

    I just do not get the feeling you engage in good faith but moreso to argue for the sake of it. Hyper masculinity is a worrisome construct and any construct foisted onto a group by those who do not belong to that group should be treated with healthy skepticism by those who stand to be possibly harmed by that construct. Progressive academics are usually hyper aware of that concern.

  8. kantay says:

    And while we are at it, what does it say when its because there are not enough Sikh men in academics that a non Sikh man helps define Sikh masculinity and gender relationships. To me it says more s to be done to encourage academics for Sikh boys as with all boys of color, who are not becoming knowledge producers at anything close to parity. We were hyper defined by victorian British men in the past, will our future definitions still be given to us, or made by us?

  9. there says:

    why does it have to be in canada? =(

  10. is there kantay says:….

    Information from our Punjab regarding the disparity between boys and girls. I know its only our imagined homeland but maybe this will prove important in some kind of anthropology study.

  11. is there kantay says:

    If the only response to the point of view articulated by me here is that its not worth engaging because its the product of a hyper masculine discourse, or some other label that dismisses the point of view here then I think that's not cool.

    If everyone could own that there is no monopoly on who is right we might have sought after dialogues. I saw the SAFAR program and there are a few sikh men, and Brian seems to be a man of color – meaning he probably has a lived experience of being defined (hyper defined) without consent.

    I also think the women on the panel are powerful and that is indeed kind of threatening. Maybe because some Sikh male privilege is threatened by strong women who want to overturn that privilege, but also because who is to say that a woman-dominated Sikhi would not create privilege the other way? Is it just an assumption that of course it would be fair? I do think the lack of educational achievement of Sikh men is worrisome and can have some serious consequences to Sikh men generally and the Sikh community as such.

    I also think that Sikh men who speak in this spaces, and indeed anyone speaking in these spaces is subtly and not subtly instructed to share and speak within certain norms and these norms exclude, shame, and silence in a way similiar to how it is posited that hyper masculinity silences and shames.

    Personally I see the masculinity norms of Sikh culture as having quite a few positives and I would hope that Sikh men, including men who do not share the norms explicit and implicit within spaces like this conference, can have a lion's share role in helping create or refine norms and labels.

    Other than that I am sure the conference will be powerful – but I feel there will be a portion of people on the outside looking in who will be hoping that there is a fair-minded treatment of Sikh men and masculinity.

  12. Jas says:

    Amazing video by kids. Woman can be womans own worst enemy.