The next few articles on Kaur Life will feature Sikh women who are combating hate with love through social justice work; women who are fighting for human rights with their Sikh values.

Each of these Sikh women are deeply involved with creating positive change in the world through their actions and continue to strive to be closer to the Divine. Here at Kaur Life, we feel it’s important to highlight Sikh women who are resisting misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, racism, sexism, alibis or other -isms. This could be through art, music, poetry, protesting, boycotting, writing, careers, jobs, volunteering, raising radical children, and more…the frontlines are everywhere! Today’s article showcases Kaurs of the Resistance: The Advocates.


Aasees Kaur

 

I am an advocate for Sikh-American issues as well as the broader civil and human rights issues. I study Public Policy and Nonprofit Leadership at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies in Atlanta, Georgia.

Her Social Justice


I advocate for policy and workplace reforms to better protect our families, especially children. I seek to create more awareness and appreciation for the Sikh-American community through community, government, and media engagement. During these times of rage, I am focusing on a message of understanding our minority neighbors and practicing love and acceptance in our homes. By focusing on these values, I truly believe that we change social attitudes and strengthen the American fabric.

Her Sikhi

Social justice work cannot be done without recognizing the Oneness in this universe and there are many tuks/shabads in Guru Granth Sahib and Dasam Granth that guide us to find that Light within everyone. I look through our history and it is full of trailblazers! Our Gurus and many other Singhs and Kaurs led the lives as Warrior-Saints and they showed us how to fight injustice, intolerance, and oppression. The concepts of Ik Onkar and Sarbat Da Bhala are a driving force for me and they also push me to recognize all of the human race as One. Sikhi inspires me to lead a life of selfless service and serve His Creation through the lens of Oneness.

Her advice to other Kaurs wanting to get politically and socially engaged

All it takes is one voice to start a movement. I encourage you to get involved with something small – at your school, favorite coffee shop, local political groups, or even your preferred nonprofit – and build from there. Take on one small task at a time and grow into your roles of community leaders. We are blessed to have the guidance of our Gurus and with that support, we are fully equipped to turn the world right side up.

 


Amreet Sandhu

Amreet Sandhu is a law and policy advocate in Sacramento, California, and uses the pronouns “she” and “her.” She earned her J.D. at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon and her B.A. with honors in Community Studies & Politics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. With her allies and two sweet-hearted cats, Sandhu is currently fighting against fascism as a founding member and president of the National Lawyers Guild, Sacramento Chapter (NLG Sacramento).

 Her Social Justice


After a long day of working a polling station on November 8, 2016, I awoke the next morning to news that life would drastically change for many of the communities with which I identify—and it has. In response, I resigned from my neighborhood association president role to focus on creating NLG Sacramento, which will elect its first board in the upcoming weeks. In solidarity with NLG chapters and movement lawyers nationwide, NLG Sacramento offers Know Your Rights Trainings, provides legal observers during community actions, and supports local movements by elevating community voices and providing legal protection when needed.
  

Her Sikhi

Luckily, my Sikh background provided me with strong egalitarian values at a very early age, which my family reinforced. For me, this creates automatic dissonance whenever hearing of disparate treatment for arbitrary reasons. Sikhi requires me to fight for both my own liberation, and the liberation of others—particularly in times like these, when the Southern Poverty Law Center reports substantial increases in U.S. hate crimes during a post-Trump America, and when tremendous amounts of previously dormant xenophobic and white nationalist violence has been reawakened on a national level, rebranded as an “alt-right” movement—and unleashed on all seen as “other.”However, as Sikhs, our “otherness” is a symbol of great pride and strength as it has helped us fight for fairness and survive difficult times. We are well-suited to successfully resist.

Her advice to other Kaurs wanting to get politically and socially engaged

Jap Ji Sahib reminds us that what matters most are our deeds, not our labels. My advice is: act. Let go of what holds you back and clear your plate to make space for resistance work. Continue the extremely important daily work of nourishing your precious self and checking your own privilege and ego during meditation so that you may wield your internal kirpan wisely. If what your local community needs does not yet exist: create it—as a Sikh, you are a natural community builder. As you’ve learned during a lifetime of seva—there is room for all to serve and plenty to do; you know best what you can offer the movement. Plug in at levels that make sense for you, and invite others to join you by intentionally building safe and meaningful spaces for diversity, participation, and growth.

 


Harbani Ahuja

Inspired by Guru Nanak’s social vision of equality, Harbani has been involved in many legal and policy efforts both in the United States and abroad, with a focus on immigrant rights, human rights, Sikh rights, and gender discrimination. A native New Yorker, Harbani enjoys writing poetry and short pieces, cake-decorating, and graphic design. She is currently a NYC Social Justice Fellow at the NYC Commission on Human Rights, and holds a J.D. from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law with a concentration in Constitutional Law and Rights.

Her Social Justice

Violence and oppression against marginalized communities is not a new phenomenon, but the rise to power of individuals that arguably encourage — and at the very least do not condone — this violence and oppression has been crushingly devastating for these communities. I am extremely grateful to be able to do social justice work for a city government that will not stand by as civil rights are trampled, and is not only being incredibly reactive to policies that threaten minority communities, but also affirmatively and proactively implementing programs and safeguards to protect vulnerable communities. Of course, there is always work to be done, but being able to go out and tell individuals and communities that you see them and that they matter — that’s the first step in combating hate with love.

Her Sikhi

As a Sikh, public interest law always resonated with me. Whether I’m working with immigrant communities, Sikhs, survivors of domestic violence, or other marginalized communities, I always approach my work through the lens of Sikhi. I remember that we have an obligation to fight against injustice and oppression, to serve our communities and the less fortunate, and to treat everyone with love, dignity, and respect. Sikhi is synonymous with activism, and my Sikhi inspires me to do the social justice work I do every day.

Her advice to other Kaurs wanting to get politically and socially engaged

There is an unbelievable amount of work to be done, and getting more civically active and engaged is easier than ever! You can join marches and protests, post and sign petitions to support various causes, create talking groups within your local communities and understand issues they are facing, call and write to your representatives, attend events in your local community, volunteer with one of hundreds of non-profits and government organizations that need all the support they can get, donate money to organizations doing important work on the ground, be creative and make art, poetry, performances, etc. that make a statement…the list goes on. I understand it can be overwhelming with everything that’s going on, so just pick one issue, and make that your mission. Read and educate yourself, keep yourself informed, and go out there and make yourself heard. We come from a long line of warrior women, and it’s our duty to continue fighting against inequality and oppression, in any way we can.

 


 Sukhjit Kaur Narwal 

I attend the University of Nevada Las Vegas and major in Secondary Education for English. I am an intern with Planned Parenthood, and President of my student organization, Students United for Reproductive Justice. On my free time I enjoy volunteering with organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice Nevada.

Her Social Justice

By leading Students United for Reproductive Justice at UNLV I have committed myself to ensuring that undocumented students, LGBTQ+ students, students of color—everyone feels safe on our campus. By working with local organizations I have been able to provide classes on self defense, consent, and knowing our legal rights. Together we stand in solidarity with each other and acknowledge the intersectionality among us. We have connections with groups that provide contraceptives, at every meeting we have condoms, pads, tampons, and list of resources one may need. I have become a student advocate by noticing what a student may struggle with and doing my best to provide them with the services or materials they may need.

Her Sikhi

Sikhi has taught me to see the human race as one, although many do not understand this, I have learned from Sikhi that through love and compassion all is possible. Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji says in the Sorat’h Fifth Mehl: “Oh Divine, You are the honor of the dishonored.” For me this speaks volumes, I learned that maybe not everyone agrees with me, but my heart is pure and no matter what Waheguru will always honor what I do and stand for. 

Her advice to other Kaurs wanting to get politically and socially engaged

The best way to get involved is to find organizations that are nearby. I found organizations that were near my home and it all started with me calling the organization and telling them that I was interested in volunteering. This is where I began my first step of getting involved civically. I also got in touch with student organizations and found out when they meet so I could expand my horizon on the types of issues there are right now. Organizations always need help and this is definitely the best way to stand with Sikhi, especially being a Kaur.


Wendy Aujla

Wendy Aujla is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Alberta. She has been involved in addressing the problem of domestic violence and honour-based violence in the Canadian context for many years as an activist and researcher. She aimlessy uses volunteerism, community involvement, and leadership to promote awareness about gender discrimination and violence to create safer communities for all.

Her Social Justice

I have always aimed to create more awareness about domestic violence through various initiatives. In the last few years, I encouraged my family, friends, and colleagues to help support families fleeing domestic violence. Together we have been able to support the women’s shelters by collecting and donating gift cards to local stores during Family Violence Awareness Month in November. In the last four years, $11,440.00 worth of gift cards were used to support families by WIN House. These gift cards in various denominations and for a variety of places, contribute to the advancement of women in our society by improving their life in Canada. I must say, the experience has been rewarding as it has encouraged those around me to support the women and children the shelters serve. This initiative provides a different avenue to talk about domestic violence and to support women fleeing a violent home. There has been so much support from my family, friends, and colleagues who have been committed to this issue and I find they reach out on their own each year to ask me “how they can support with gift cards?” Together, with the commitment to support, we all seem to recognize the unique ongoing struggles women from diverse backgrounds undergo when fleeing violent situations and this is why I feel people are passionate about collecting as many gift cards. The decision to leave abuse is a very difficult one for some women who lack agency due to unique barriers or challenges such as immigration status, cultural pressures, or financial abuse. However, with the efforts made in collecting gift cards, there is this renewed sense of hope for some women to a better way of life in Canada free of abuse. Receiving a gift card allows us to empower women to overcome feelings of subordination and oppression. Most of all a gift card gives women a sense of belonging and the ability to purchase items on their own such as a mattress to sleep on, food to support their family, and other basic necessities required to rebuild a life full of new opportunities.

Her Sikhi

I am honoured to say, that Sikhi influences and guides me to continue with social justice work when it might be difficult to do so. When I focus on sensitive topics, Sikhi supports me with self-care and inspires me to shed light on dark matters. Currently, I am increasing awareness on an understudied issue: “The Perspectives of Alberta Law Enforcement on “Honour” Crimes within the Context of Domestic Violence.” I find these topics, domestic violence, and honour-based violence, are not easy to act on, nor research and still seem to be considered very taboo like subjects. Sometimes it is difficult to have discussions in these areas so I turn to Sikhism to support me with the passion I have to understand the social justice work I engage in. Sikhi reminds me to be courageous, to continue to stand up for the voiceless, to be fearless while I aim to protect the rights of those who are suffering and to fight for justice and fairness for all. Sikhi supports me on an emotional and spiritual level so I can continue to work towards creating a fair and socially justice world by promoting gender equality,  healthy relationships with respect and care to eliminate gender-based violence.

Her advice to other Kaurs wanting to get politically and socially engaged

You cannot eliminate the hate nor the violence, by not doing anything about it. I have always been active in the community, while “critically reflecting” and applying a sociological lens to understand gender discrimination and gender-based violence. I became interested in why gender discrimination, violence against young girls and women continues to occur despite the advances made during the women’s movement? I would suggest that you use your strengths because we all have them whether that is writing, volunteering, and raising awareness through social media to speak out against injustices you might be witnessing. Get engaged in events that are taking place where you live or on social media and ask critical questions. If you don’t agree with something in the world, what are you doing to change it? Also, please don’t forget to continue to empower the Kaur’s around you by supporting some of the work they are doing to make the world a safer place to live in. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,”  Margaret Mead.


Read the next article in the series, Kaurs of the Resistance: The Healers.