FOR the third year in a row, the World Sikh Organization of Canada joined with Sikh communities across Canada to take part in the One Billion Rising movement by providing care packages, treats and baked goods to over 1,000 women and children in shelters in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. Each package was accompanied by Valentine’s cards prepared by Sikh children and students from local Khalsa schools and gurdwaras.
One Billion Rising began as a call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than one billion women and girls.
This initiative was launched by the WSO in 2013 in Vancouver and has subsequently spread across Canada.
In Surrey, volunteers gathered at the Singh Sabha Gurdwara to put together packages. The volunteers were visited by Tim Uppal, Minister of State for Multiculturalism. Uppal met with WSO’s Vice President for B.C., Jasbir Kaur Randhawa, and congratulated her on the initiative. In discussions on current issues affecting the Sikh community in Canada and internationally, Uppal revealed that he recently had the opportunity to meet with French President François Hollande and raise the issue of restrictions on the turban in France.
Jasbir Kaur said, “Once again, this year’s event was a great success and we had the opportunity to serve hundreds of women in a difficult situation on Valentine’s Day.”
In Calgary, WSO in partnership with the Dashmesh Culture Centre were able to deliver care packages to the YWCA which operates several shelters across Calgary. WSO Vice President for Alberta, Tejinder Singh Sidhu, said, “This event is important not just for the individuals we help, but also in raising awareness about violence against women in the community. This event has been very warmly received by the Sikh community and we intend to grow and expand it next year.”
In Toronto, cupcakes and Valentine’s cards were delivered to women’s shelters in Peel. The cards were made by students at the Khalsa Montessori School in Brampton. This year, the WSO was joined by members of the youth group Nach Balliye in preparing the packages. Nach Balliye has spearheaded innovative initiatives such as Lori for Her and the Pink Ladoos Campaign to empower and celebrate women in the community.
In Montreal, local Sikh children helped make Valentines cards at the Gurdwara Sahib Greater Montreal (DDO). Children at the gurdwara’s weekly class each made two cards and asked questions about abuse and bullying and why people must go to shelters. The cards were accompanied by practical items such as soap and personal care items which were delivered to two local shelters.
WSO President Dr. Amritpal Singh Shergill said, “We are thankful for all the support we have received in making this year’s event another great success. It is inspiring to see how this initiative has received support from Sikhs across the country and is playing a role in educating about the issue of violence against women and making it a topic of discussion in local communities. Valentine’s Day may not be a Sikh celebration but we are glad that this initiative is able to bring some happiness to those who are going through a difficult time and need to know that someone is thinking of them.”