UPDATED Call to Action: Sikh Art and Film Foundation excludes female panelists for the second year in a row

BREAKING NEWS: The Sikh Art and Film Foundation has responded by including a female speaker in next week’s Leadership Summit!!! Great progress.  Yet, the lack of representation of women and girls from 2004 – 2012 in the film festivals and galas still needs to be addressed, and this is a community wide issue.  See below for actionable solutions.

Via Email:

November 15, 2013 7:43PM Nina Chanpreet Kaur,

Dear Sikh Art and Film Foundation,

I am very glad to see that Rashmy Chatterjee will be speaking at next Friday’s Leadership Summit.  This is a tremendous gain for our community as most of the speakers at the summit have been men since 2011.  This represents a trend in many Sikh organizations I hope we can change together. As a Sikh woman and resident of NYC for the last 11 years, I have followed your organization since it’s inception.  Over the years, I have attended many of your events and have been so inspired by the films, speakers and attendees.  I have also noticed the lack of representation of women and girls in your programs.  Though you took a step forward this week, I believe you could be doing more to address, highlight and celebrate the challenges and triumphs of Sikh women and girls whether in your Film Festival, Heritage Gala or Leadership Summit.

I understand that your goal is to transcend the dichotomies and binaries of gender and other categories to sustain the universality and equality that our Gurus envisioned in order to promote and preserve Sikh and Punjabi heritage.  I share your vision and do not condone a gender binary or bias towards either men or women.  I am also aware that you face limitations as all organizations do, in particular that you must base the selections of films on the submissions you receive.  However, Sikh men and boys have been a central part of your programs in a way Sikh women and girls have not and this indicates a bias – whether intentional or not.

From 2007 to 2012, none of your Gala awards for Leadership and Vision have been presented to Sikh women.  In fact, the only women who received awards were for Creativity/Art with the exception of Shonali Bose who received an award for Courage and Shelley Rubin who received an award for Leadership jointly with her husband.  For 5 years in a row you have only presented Sikh women with awards for Creativity/Art and no other category.  As a Sikh woman, this sends a message to me and the next generation of Kaurs that women can be honored for creativity and art but not for leadership and vision.  It raises questions about your beliefs and assumptions related to gender roles and women’s capacities in relation to men.  This is most certainly not the message young Kaurs should be receiving, nor do I think this is your intention based on the email I received from Ravi last week.        

As an organization, you have represented an incredibly vast array of topics of universal interest related to Sikh and Punjabi heritage in your Film Festivals.  However, from 2004 – 2012 the majority of the 100+ films you have presented have had male protagonists or focus on issues related to men in the film.  These films have had universal appeal and meaning to people of all backgrounds and I understand that our role as Sikhs is to challenge gender norms and binaries.  However, the experiences of Sikh women and girls are so rarely a part of the films you curate.  Over the years, only a small number of films have represented or included Sikh women and girls, the most notable: Minute Meals, A Winter Tale, My Mother India, Khamosh Pani, The Widow Colony, Nineteen-Eighty Four, Why? We are Killing our Daughters, Rebel Queen, Khanabadosh and Namrata.  In this way, you are also sending a message that men’s issues are more important than women’s and also indicating to the public at large that we as Sikhs do not hold women as equal to men.  Without including more films that locate Sikh women and girls and portray their experiences, perspectives and voices I do not believe you can continue to represent Sikhs heritage and culture accurately.

Lastly, most of the producers of the films you’ve selected year after year have been male with the exception of 2004 which had the largest number of female producers in comparison to male producers in all 9 years.  On the one hand, this is certainly due to Sikh women producing fewer films than men and that fewer films are being made about Sikh women.  However, there have been initiatives in our community this year and in previous years which have have encouraged Sikh women and girls to create films and other forms of art as well as engage in leadership.  There have also been initiatives to encourage men to become more aware of and interested in issues that also impact women.  It is possible for you to do the same or collaborate with those initiatives.  Given that you represent all Sikhs and your intention is to preserve and promote Sikh heritage, I believe it is imperative that you include Sikh women and girls in more ways.  However you decide to do that is your decision to make as an organization, and I invite you to consider the following:

  • Include a Women in Film panel or series to your 2013-2014 program to encourage and cultivate women and girls in the production and participation of the films you curate.  In fact, I am an advisor to Global Girl Media and you may consider partnering with them to make this possible.  I would be happy to help you make the connection.
  • Honor a Sikh woman for her leadership or vision at your next Heritage Gala.
  • Attend a Gender Capacity Building Clinic for organizational leaders of Sikh institutions prior to the film festival. This training will be lead in partnership with my organization, Power With, and supported by 18MillionRising.  It is free of cost for up to 2 representatives from your organization and will focus on alliance building.  As the first of its kind, it is an invitation-only event and I strongly encourage you to consider being a part of it to show your commitment to gender equality.

By way of background, Power With brings men and women together across sectors, cultures, faiths, races, ethnicities and nationalities to make allyship a critical component of leadership and the bedrock for social change.  18MillionRising learned about the lack of gender representation in your programs and has decided to work with our community to address this issue.  18MillionRising serves API communities and allies, and is committed to nonpartisan civic engagement using new media and technology.

Our Sikh Gurus fervently advocated for equality on all fronts: gender, race, caste and religion.  I hope you will consider doing all of the above and more.  I will email you a formal invitation for the Gender Capacity Building Clinic in January of 2014 and look forward to your response.  In the meantime, I welcome our continued dialogue so feel free to contact me.  Thank you for all that you have done and all that you continue to do to promote and preserve Sikh heritage and the arts.

Warmly,
Nina Chanpreet Kaur, Power With
& 18 Million Rising

Previously posted on The Langar Hall on November 7, 2013:
For the third consecutive year, the Sikh Art and Film Foundation is hosting a Sikh Leadership Summit prior to the Sikh International Film Festival which will take place in NYC in 2014.  This is the second year the Sikh Art and Film Foundation has had an all-male panel.  They have not had a female panelist on their program since 2011.  This year’s summit features Mr. Ajay Banga and Mr. Nikhil ‘Nik’ Deogun, Dr. Praveen Nayyar is the moderator.  Last year’s program included a Sikh woman, Dr. Maina Chawla Singh, as a moderator but not a panelist.  The foundation got a lot of heat for their choice of gala honorees in October 2012 and this year they have again failed to serve the community they intend to represent.

The Sikh Art and Film Foundation is not the only Sikh institution that fails time and time again to invite women to hold the same space as men, yet there are some Sikh institutions who have not only included but prioritized Sikh women in the last few years.   I’m no longer going to remain quiet about the issue and walk away because it is absolutely unacceptable for our institutions and community leaders to continue to perpetuate gender inequality.  Even more so given that we as Sikhs in this particular moment of intense violence want to embody the teachings of the Sikh Gurus and maintain a reputation in the world for our commitment to equality.  I wrote an email to the foundation this morning.  I called them (their number doesn’t work) and sent tweets and a facebook message.  I encourage the entire panth to do the same.  While including women at the table and on a stage doesn’t solve the problem of gender inequality, it is most certainly the first step – and a necessary one.  Write a message and contact the foundation, their information is below and here is a message you can copy/paste.  If they do not update their panel I will most certainly not be attending and hope you will consider taking the same action:

You cannot host a panel about Sikh leadership and not have a woman on the panel for the second year in a row.  It is imperative that you change your speaker list.  It is 2013, there are plenty of Sikh women who could speak on this panel with men.  The world is watching, let’s show the world Sikhs are serious about gender equality.  

 

Tel: (877) SIKH-ARTS

Fax: (212) 768-1858

E-Mail: [email protected]

Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/SIKHARTSANDFILM

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sikh.arts.9?fref=ts

 

LIVE UPDATES NOVEMBER 7, 2013

Via Facebook:

November 7, 1:43PM The Sikh Art and Film Foundation,

have conveyed your views to the Chair of the Leadership Summit – Ravi Arora

November 7, 2:14PM Nina Chanpreet Kaur,

Great. Thank you. The world is watching and community awaits your response. http://thelangarhall.com/general/call-to-action-sikh-art-and-film-foundation-excludes-female-panelists-for-the-second-year-in-a-row/

November 7, 3:33PM Sikh Art and Film Foundation:

The Panelists are a work in progress. We have reached out to 6 women CEO/leader’s and they are not available. The list will be updated as needed.

November 7, 5:33PM Nina Chanpreet Kaur,

Thank you for the update. Ravi emailed me also. This is what I shared with him. There are many more than 6 Sikh women who are CEOs and leaders. I’m sorry to hear they are unavailable and very glad to hear you reached out to them. Do you need help locating or contact other Sikh female CEOs and leaders? I have many contacts to provide let me know, and others in the community have offered to put you in touch as well.

 

Via Email:

November 7, 8:42AM Nina Chanpreet Kaur,

You cannot have a panel about Sikh leadership and not have a woman on the panel.  You need to change your speaker list.  It is 2013, there are plenty of Sikh women who could speak on this panel with men, let’s show the world Sikhs are serious about gender equality.

November 7, 3:01pm Ravi Aurora,

Thank you for your comments and we absolutely hold the same values and couldn’t agree with you more…… which is why we have only indicated confirmed panelists thus far..
Regards,
November 7, 5:31PM Nina Chanpreet Kaur,

Dear Ravi,

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh. Thank you for your note.  It is great to know you hold the values our Gurus set forth for us.  I noticed you did not have a female panelist last year either, though your moderator was a woman.  I understand that you have only posted confirmed panelists however you did not indicate a plan to include a female panelist and given last year I hope you will be publicly announcing your confirmed female panelist. If you need help locating a Sikh panelist I would be happy to put you in touch with Sikh women who are CEOs and leaders.  Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.
Warmly,
Nina

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