Dear Women’s Advocate in Me,
Is it any wonder that in a household overrun by girls that I would be drawn to work with organizations that empower women? I believe the biggest change occurs when everyday people take a stand in their everyday lives… with small and big things. Only through creating change in our own families can we create change on a larger scale.
There was five girls, one boy and our parents in our small three bedroom house… it was full of laughter and love. My parents had a great story where they were meant to be… but I digress. They are a strong couple that believed in telling one another everything and making decisions together. I remember many a night when my mom had waited for my dad to come home from the afternoon shift at the sawmill and they spoke long into the night sharing each other’s day. I wasn’t so forgiving and yelled out, “Keep it down. I have to go to school in the morning!” I didn’t understand then but I do know - communication between parents was key and they had it in spades! They needed to be in sync with how to raise their children.
It wasn’t always easy to have a house full of girls (my three older sisters and brother) especially in a small rural village in the Punjab and compared to my thia’s family of one girl and 3 boys. And my paternal grandmother never let my mom forget it!
As a young girl, my favourite treat was to sleep with my mom and hear old stories about their life in India. There are some things that I remember and others that I have forgotten… and those that I think I wanted to forget. My dad was always a feisty, jovial guy with a heart of gold. A man that was just meant to be a father… his children are his life! My grandmother, not so much. She was a spoiled privileged girl that never worked a hard day’s work in her life. She was the only girl with lots of boys and was always surrounded by sister-in-laws and daughter-in-laws who did all the work while she sat back in luxury.
My mom told me this story once and I’m a bit fuzzy on the details… or maybe my mother didn’t spell it out for me. It was a conversation between my dad and my grandmother saying that my mother kept having girls and my father should do something about it. Even back when I heard the story, I knew it wasn’t a good thing that my grandmother was suggesting. My father refused and my grandmother said, “If you like girls so much then you will have five of them.” They say “kali gheb” or black tongue is very powerful… she pretty much cursed my dad to have more girls. And he did. Five girls that felt loved, protected and very much wanted. My father was encouraged by my grandmother to do something about it and he refused.
With our dad being our biggest advocate, I found we could take on the world and make it our own. I love the story about my older sister standing up to my grandmother - my dad had immigrated to Canada by then leaving behind my older siblings and mom in the care of his parents. My sister had drank the milk that was being saved for my boy cousins. I can just imagine her in her little girl’s salwar kameez and hair in pigtails standing on a mound of dirt shaking her little fist, reminding my grandmother that it was our mother had milked the cow in the first place and she had every right to drink the milk too.
Even though I was born and brought up in Canada, my parents point of reference has always been from how they were raised and what happened in their birth country. I think it was harder on my mom because she did feel the stigma of having so many girls. But she also knew that we were a blessing to her too. She came to Canada and was able to have a wonderful life with her husband and family… it was her karma.
My dad gave me some great advice to always look for a man (husband) who had a sister because he knew how to treat and respect a woman. I do believe this since my husband too has sisters and I know many examples for this to be true. I know that my dad had two sisters and he loved and respected them very much. As the baby of the family, they indulged him and he would do anything for them. They made his life richer and set a good foundation of a relationship for him to build upon.
I’ve been told that I am very much like my dad… someone that I am very proud to emulate. He is a joy, respectful of women, wise, sensitive, caring and he can make 5 new friends as he walks down a city block. And he is loved!
With everything that is going on in India today and the voices that are being raised, I started to wonder, what can affect change? My answer is that people can. How you are raised, what values that you live by, how you define equality. It starts with family and sticking up for what you believe in especially when you know it’s right. I will continue to do whatever I can to help my fellow sisters, mothers, daughters and fathers as they fight to right what is wrong and to empower women to be the best they can be. Together we can make change!
As I was said at the start, I am passionate about women’s issues and being an advocate for the empowerment of women. I work with and donate to a number of charities that support women who have been victims of violence to help rebuild their lives for themselves and their children. I belong to a number of groups both social and professional that are made up of smart women with innovative ideas to affect change - I’m constantly in awe of them as they challenge me to be the best person -- woman, wife, daughter and mother I can be.
I’m always inspired by stories of positive change and I know others are too. If you have a moment, please share them with me.
All my love,