Happy International Women’s Day! How are you Empowered? ~ Rooppreet Kaur Sohal- Bagri

I am fond of, and I have always liked the idea of having an International Women’s Day.  Having an international women’s day is a calendar marked day of reminder to acknowledge your value as a woman and to appreciate those who have helped you become the woman that you are today. In comparison to the generation of our grandmothers and mothers, today, we live in a different world. As women in developed and modern societies, we live life based upon our choices and preferences, which we rightly should. We discuss women’s rights and feminism in the contemporary world, but we often forget that a woman has been given equal social and political status alongside men, since the very beginning of Sikhism. Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji was one of the first to state that “one cannot talk ill of her, she is not only a giver of birth to the ordinary man, but she also gives birth to kings”. Without the woman, the universe cannot survive. The universe, families, communities and nation-states cannot survive or thrive without women. As a society, in most cases, we tend to discuss what the governments of nation states should work towards in order to empower women. I believe that the initiation of empowerment of a girl and, or a woman must begin at home. How do you believe that a woman is first empowered?

       One of my favorite quotes is the following African proverb: “If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” As women, we are builders, leaders and survivors at the familial, community and national levels. Based upon my personal experience, I believe that the empowerment and growth of a woman first begins in the household that she is born and raised in. My parents raised me to be an empowered woman via providing me with a high-quality education, freedom to make my decisions and gave me values that are important to live with in society. Contrary to the belief in Indian households, I was never treated less than a son, rather more so. This is the best gift from my parents, which I am forever grateful for. The upbringing at home is the foundation and the starting point of a child to who she will grow up to be. When parents choose to raise their daughters by empowering them with tools such as an education and the independence in making their life decisions, daughters will then become empowered and independent women in society.

       I am also fortunate and thankful to say that after getting married, my husband and family have encouraged and empowered me to pursue my doctorate. I still remember the day when my husband said to me, ‘do not let your previously earned education go to waste, pursue your PhD if you are passionate about it, to make it all worthwhile’. As a man, he is empowering me as his wife within our marriage. This is something that I am very proud and appreciative of. From my own briefly explained experiences, you can tell that I carry a strong belief that if a girl and, or a woman is empowered by the people that she is surrounded by, she will blossom into the person that she is meant to be in regards to her potential as long as she keeps working hard to become the best version of herself.

       I hope that on every International Women’s Day we can all take a moment to appreciate and be thankful for the woman that you are and have become, despite all your adversities. Always believe in yourself and live life with strength and dignity through the good and rough days. Be thankful for both happiness and challenges throughout your life because without both, we wouldn’t be the women that we are today. We all have our own individual journey’s, but what makes the journey most special is the people who prove to be our pillars of strength since day one and the ones who mould us to be the best version of ourselves.