On February 14, the World Sikh Organization (WSO) 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 800 women in 22 women’s 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 beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than one billion women and girls.
Last year, WSO and Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen (GNFK) launched the event in Vancouver and in response to the tremendous support provided by the community, grew the event this year to include Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.
In Vancouver, local Gurdwara’s participated in the initiative and served as drop-off locations. The response from the shelters which were served was overwhelming. Many residents noted how difficult Valentine’s Day can be, when having recently escaped an abusive relationship. One shelter’s women decided to make a thank you card for the Sikh community.
OBR-BC group (10K)
WSO BC vice-president Jasbir Kaur said, “the response to the event was once again wonderful. We received a great deal of support from local radio such as Red FM, Radio India and Sher-e-Punjab. I’d particularly like to recognise Kiran Aulakh of Shere-e-Punjab radio who, with her support, went above and beyond the call of duty in making the BC event a success.”
GNFK council member and volunteer Roveen Kandola said, “GNFK is dedicated to enriching people’s lives through regular, sustained, and meaningful volunteer service. Our work is based on the basic humanitarian principles of sharing, inclusiveness, community, and public service. We are thankful to WSO for providing this opportunity to us.”
In Calgary, WSO received generous support and assistance from the Dashmesh Culture Centre and were able to deliver 50 care packages to the YCWA which operates several shelters across Calgary. Sehajvir Singh, vice-president of the Dashmesh Culture Centre and an executive member of the WSO said, “It’s important as Sikhs for us to reach out to those in need and to raise awareness about ending violence against women. But on a personal level it felt amazing to be able to help the shelters. We were truly overwhelmed at how much such a simple gesture on our part was appreciated.”
Similarly in Toronto, cupcakes and Valentine’s cards were delivered to women’s shelters in Peel. Local university students helped prepare and deliver the packages. WSO’s Ontario vice-president Prabhmeet Singh said, “the workers and volunteers at the Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter were very grateful to see the amount of care and effort put into creating the cards and cupcakes for the residents. We were told that Valentine’s Day can often be a lonely and somber day at the shelter and so the Sikh community’s gesture was particularly timely and welcome.”
In Montreal, local Sikh children helped make Valentines cards at the Gurdwara sahib greater Montreal. The children of different ages had a discussion about abuse, bullying and the importance of helping others in need.
WSO president Amritpal Singh Shergill said, “what began last year as a local initiative in Vancouver has now gone nation-wide and has been an even bigger success than we anticipated. We know that as a society we all have a long ways to go towards ending violence against women, but we hope that this small token of our support will bring about awareness about violence against women and will bring a little bit of happiness into the hearts of those who have been affected so that they know they are not alone.”
“The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, social and economic status.”