Below I share with you my story for how this campaign was created. Although the seed was planted years ago, it took a tragedy on December 16, 2012 to break the silence. May we as a collective sisterhood never have to experience such a horrific act of brutality again, and may we as a collective sisterhood pray for each others healing and peace of mind.
January 2001, Andehri station, Mumbai India.
I am seated on a local train to take me downtown to the Times of India building. Today I am meeting with the editor of Femina Magazine to do my interview and obtain my passes for the Miss India Pageant. I am excited to be a guest at the event. As I wait for the next train at Andheri station I am amazed by India. Its people, its beauty, and on the flip side its lack of structure and chaotic nature. Despite being born and raised in Canada, I have such an incredible affinity towards India and it is my Grandmother that I have to thank for that (God rest her soul). Even though she was illiterate she taught me to speak Punjabi, cook Indian food and the meanings behind our several festivals. I look out the window of the train and think about how bittersweet this journey has been for me. Being crowned Miss India Canada, wanting to come to India and show my Grandmother how much of my success I owe to her for teaching me about my culture, only to find out that she passed away 7 hours before I landed. I start to well up, only to be interrupted by a young girl no older than 6 years of age selling hair elastics on the train. Entrepreneurial and suave she is. She first pays me a compliment about how beautiful my hair is, and then proceeds to tell me how my hair would look better with her elastics in it. I smile, reach in my pocket to pull out 5 rupees and buy one. Caught up in the glitz and glamour of Mumbai and Bollywood I did not realize how much of an impact this girl would have on my life for years thereafter.
January 2013, Orlando Florida.
As news broke out of Jyoti Singh Pandey's Rape and Murder I was shocked and sickened for days. I reflected on life and began to realize how fortunate I was to be living in North America where there are well-established support systems to help all women. In case any woman or child was subject to being abused, raped or trafficked, organizations would step in to aid in our rescue and rehabilitation. Such is not the case in India and other less developed countries. The realities and the statistics of violence against women are not only shocking but heart breaking. As I read more and more about the cases of rape being used as a weapon of war in Syria, or kidnapping and trafficking out of Vietnam or Thailand I ask myself "How am I helping these women?". As I read the statistics and reports, I wonder about that little girl on the train. I pacify my mind by telling myself “at least she was selling elastics”, but it is highly likely that her future was laced with some type of molestation, rape or human trafficking. I know that I am not alone in wanting to make a change for women worldwide and that is why I am ready to stand up and say: that we as South Asian women in North America need to come together and tell women in India and worldwide that we are here to help, that we are here to heal, that we are your sisters!