by Ravleen Kaur
“What do I really care about?”
This was the question I asked myself while scheduling classes for my second semester at Ohio State University. It was essentially a no-brainer. Finally discovering and embracing my interests, I was ready to take a semester of classes recklessly exploring these interests before I committed to a major once and for all. My shopping cart was littered with random classes, but I managed to narrow it down to five. One of them was “Gender, Sex, and Power,” a course a fellow peer later on condemned as “useless.”
In the end, it was anything but pointless. My gender studies professor gave the class the option of volunteering with an organization or creating a group project. I thought, “why not do both?”
The class unexpectedly led me to organizing a social media anti-bullying campaign and interning at an amazing Sikh organization over the summer.
SAFAR is the Sikh Feminist Research Institute, an institute led by strong Sikh women who dream of a world where the Gurus’ vision of justice and equality prevails and the feminism inherent within Sikhi is fully explored.
This institution does a lot of things—and I mean a lot. During my time there, one intern worked on researching and creating SAFAR’s first ever international book club, while I was allotted the task of assisting in managing SAFAR’s multiple social media accounts. With the help of my amazing supervisors, Lakhpreet and Kirpa, I learned about important social media practices and gained skills in critical analysis.
We spent countless hours this summer discussing feminist literature, social justice quotes, and Gurbani over Skype calls.
SAFAR gave me my first professional work experience in college, which I’ll never forget. Although I worked from home, I constantly felt surrounded by positive energy and intelligence. I learned plenty about social media, as well as how to adjust to, and see through, a new critical feminist lens when creating a social media posting schedule.
Above all, I recognized that I can be a feminist and a Sikh and an American all rolled into one.
I always believed Sikhi was feminist because my mom ingrained it into my upbringing from the get-go. However, I sometimes doubted this belief because of the social constructs I was surrounded by. My brain was sometimes a tumultuous mess, taking in different messages regarding gender roles from Sikh Punjabi community members. Working with SAFAR’s Board allowed me to finally see feminism truly at work within Sikh communities. I no longer felt alone in my beliefs, despite growing up in a very homogenous town in southern Louisiana.
My internship at SAFAR was a way for me to learn more about Sikh feminism while also enabling me to give back to the community in an impactful way. Volunteering with similar non-profits entities has the potential to do a lot for the community.
Before organizations can support and help the community at large, we need to help and support these organizations. This creates a strong symbiotic relationship; by helping to advance Sikh feminism, I’m helping myself and my family, and I’m helping my community—and you should, too.
If you want to learn more about the advances SAFAR is making in Sikh Feminism, follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Also, be on the lookout for an announcement coming soon about the SAFAR Academic Conference, coming in Fall 2016 soon; at this conference, various academics and activists will share their research findings in the form of poster presentations and papers.
Ravleen Kaur is a student at The Ohio State University studying public affairs and public health. Her hobbies include drinking over-sweetened coffee and dancing to bhangra music in public spaces. She is planning to run away from her home state in the Deep South and eventually work in the public health field.