Raising Kaurs

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Source: Miss Representation (click to enlarge)

Today is International Women’s Day and while our attention often (and rightfully) focuses on ways to improve the lives of women and children living across the globe, it should also be a time to reflect on ways we can positively influence the lives of young girls growing up all around us.

As the Masito an amazing seven-year-old girl, it’s been on my mind how important these formative years are for ensuring that my niece feels confident in who she is. I recently watched a documentary called Miss Representation (click here to see the trailer) which discusses the role the media plays in being both the message and messenger in the portrayal of young girls and women – one that is often negative. Quite honestly, the documentary scared me – how can we control what messages young men and women receive? American teenagers get approximately 10 hours of media consumption a day – that’s an awful lot of messages that they need to digest and make sense of. As one expert notes in the film, “little boys and little girls, when they’re seven years old, in equal number want to be President of the United States when they grow up. But then you ask the same question when they’re fifteen and you see this massive gap emerging.” The film includesfootage from a focus group of teenagers discussing media and the consequences. They speak of their low self-esteem, their anxieties, their sheer anger and frustration. I’m not even a mother and yet i worry.

Being women and coming from a community of color, Sikh girls have additional distorted messages that they often have to sort through. Whether these messages are about hair, gender roles, ability or potential, it’s clear that we can probably do a better job addressing this at a younger age. It is therefore vital that young Sikh women grow up learning about strong Sikh women in our history and are pointed to specific references in Gurbani that reinforce the gender equality tenets of our Gurus. In addition, though, it’s just as critical that young Sikh women grow up seeing strong female role-models around them. And women should be writing their own stories not only to see themselves reflected in the media in a positive way but to actively participate in creating a more diverse and correct representation of women.

While the title of this post is “Raising Kaurs” it’s clear that raising Singhs is just as important in this discussion. We have to be sure not to neglect young boys throughout this process – they need to be actively engaged in creating a positive environment for their sisters. Both young girls and boys need to be surrounded by strong and positive male role models who, through their words and actions, uphold gender equality.

I have hope that my seven-year-old niece and other Kaurs of her generation will have many role-models to look up to, both in general and from the Sikh community specifically. While it’s important that we continue to discuss issues that impact our community, such as gender roles in the home, female infanticide, dowry etc., it’s also critical that we begin to brainstorm solutions so that our next generation knows that there is hope and change is possible. When I worry about how my seven-year-old niece perceives herself, she surprises me by showing me how much she believes in her potential. It is up to the community, thereafter, that we help raise Kaurs who continue to believe in their potential.


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One Response to “Raising Kaurs”

  1. Here is an interesting essay on the role of Sikh women in our history: http://goldentemple1588.com/celebrating-sikh-wome….

    We need to look at our daughters but also take a 360 degree view across generations and genders to foster greater awareness and action about the issues around Sikh women today.

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