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The Strength And Beauty Of Women In The Sikh Faith And In The Global Community

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The Strength and Beauty of Women in the Sikh faith and in the Global Community

October 5th, 2009 by Daljit Singh

Recently, I was honoured to receive a request to make a contribution

to Jaikara Media magazine from its editor, Harminder Kaur Bhogal.

Jaikar Media magazine is a strong voice for Sikh women. It was

coincidental that at the time she contected me, I was just editing

the chapter on 'Women in the Sikh faith' for a yet unpublished book

on "The Sikhs of Today."

There has been much of coverage in magazines and on Sikhnet along

with the popular "Sikh Times" recently about women and the strengths

and some of the challenges they have to currently face in life. There

are so many attributes of women upon which I can focus but the recent

press coverage of the US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, during

her visit to Asia caught my attention.

In this article I will excerpt some of the contents of these articles

and it would be a great pleasure when she next visits the UK to

interview her on behalf of the Sikh Times on her perspective on

women. Her speech on that subject was entitled: Invest in women and

beat the downturn.

On her trip to China, she met women activists who told her about

their efforts to advance conditions for women in their country. The

woman faced major challenges such as employment, discrimination,

inadequate health care, domestic violence and antiquated laws that

hindered women's progress. "Time and tide waits for no man" and

whether the situation has changed since her last visit will depend on

society and their attitudes towards women. I

It is spokeswomen like Gurjeet Kaur, Editor of the Sikh Times,

Harminder Kaur Bhogal and many others who stand up for women

everywhere and strive to articulate their concerns and their rights in society.

Hilary Clinton had this to say:

"The problems we face today are too big and too complex to be

solved without the full participation of women. Strengthening women's

rights is not only a continuing moral obligation - it is also a

necessity as we face a global economic crisis, the spread of

terrorism and nuclear weapons, regional conflicts that threaten

families and communities, and climate change along with the dangers

it presents to the world's health and security. These challenges

demand everything we've got. We will not solve them through half

measures. And yet too often, on these issues and many more, half the

world is left behind."

It is inspirational to hear this from a stateswoman. She continued:

"Today, more women are leading governments, businesses, and

non-governmental organisations than in previous generations. But that

good news has a flip side of the coin. Women still comprise the

majority of the world's poor, unfed and unschooled. They are still

subjected to rape as a tactic of war and exploited by traffickers

globally in a billion-dollar criminal business."

Indeed the picture looks grim when one reads about the seamy side of

how women are exploited. In some societies the birth of a woman is

neither accepted nor acknowledged. Baby girls are smothered at birth,

thrown in the Yellow River to drown in China, and expectant mothers

in India terminate their pregnancy upon discovering the female gender

of their baby.

"Despite progress made by women in society; honour killings,

maiming, female genital mutilation, and other violent and degrading

practices that target women are still tolerated in too many places

today. Just a few months ago something tragic happened in

Afghanistan: a young girl in Afghanistan was on her way to school

when a group of men threw acid in her face, permanently damaging her

eyes, because they objected to her seeking an education. Their

attempt to terrorise the girl and her family failed. She said, "My

parents told me to keep coming to school even if I am killed."

It is unthinkable and unimaginable to me that this could happen in

current modern society but it goes on covertly!

That young girl's courage and resolve should serve as an inspiration

to all of us - women and men - to continue to work as hard as we can

to ensure that girls and women are accorded the rights and

opportunities they deserve.

At times of major global financial crisis, Hilary Clinton maintained that:

"We must remember what a growing body of research tells us:

Supporting women is a high-yield investment, resulting in stronger

economies, more vibrant civil societies, healthier communities and

greater peace and stability. And investing in women is a way to

support future generations. Women spend much more of their incomes on

food, medicine and schooling for children."

I totally endorse this perspective and it must become a global priority.

She continued:

"Women need to be given the chance to work for fair wages,

access credit and launch businesses. They deserve equity in the

political sphere, with equal access at the voting booth and the

freedom to petition their government as well as run for office. They

have a right to health care for themselves and their families, and a

right to send their children to school - both their sons and their

daughters; and they have a vital role to play in establishing peace

and stability worldwide. In regions torn apart by war, it is often

the women who find a way to reach across differences and discover

common ground."

In the context of the Sikh faith, equality has been advocated for the

past 550 years and Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of the faith,

advocated equality and tolerance amongst the community. In the Siri

Guru Granth Sahib we hear over and over that women play a major role

in the community and the recognition of their equality.

I value women's contributions and I was absolutely spellbound a by a

video I saw on SikhNet called "Kaurs in Crowns." The video was taken

at the Sikh Student Camp in 2008 in the UK. I religiously attend

these camps to observe and report the positive experience of our Sikh

faith. This was one of these wonderful camps. The video on Sikhnet

impressed me deeply. The title screen speaks for itself: "So why call her bad?"

The shabd by Guru Nanak Dev Ji which is used as the music for the

video sums everything up beautifully and the message is nice and

clear for others to absorb and treat women with respect, magnanimity

and great admiration.

In addition to some of the relevant points raised above by Hilary

Clinton, the Secretary of State for the USA, it shows that women's

role in society is crucial and is a lynch pin of any truly successful

and productive society.

We are born of woman, we are conceived in the womb of woman,

We are engaged and married to a woman.

We make friends with a woman and life continues because of woman.

When one woman dies, we take another one, we are bound with the

world through woman.

We grow up stronger and wiser having drunk milk from the breast of woman.

Why should we talk ill of her, who gives birth to Kings?

Everyone is born from a woman; there is none without her.

Only the One True Lord is without a woman.

(Guru Nanak, Asa Di Var, Ang 473)

In the video, all the women, some of whom were wearing their keski or

turban for the very first time, look elegant and royal; and behind

those beautiful smiles lie hidden the talents, strengths, creativity

and in fact, the very foundation that society requires to build a

healthier and strong world to take it forward for peace and stability.

At the moment, the world is torn apart by strife, political wrangling

and misery resulting from war imposed by nations on other nations

because of materialism, greed and ego-driven motives of individuals

or groups of individuals.

These multiple problems we face today are too colossal and complex to

be solved without the full participation of women.

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