I am a woman.
As I say that, I can’t help but think of all those that said it before me. Those that said it not with pride or honor, but rather with a troubled undertone.
Like "I am a woman (in a man’s world)."
Or "I am a woman (but my parents wish I were a man)."
But today, I don’t say it with baggage.
Today, I don’t attach burden to it.
Today, I remove the "woe" from wo-man.
I am a woman.
Today, I say it with pride.
And today, I hope that all the girls and the women in the world can say it with pride, especially in all the places where they are being told that they are something lesser in status than men. Because there is nothing wrong with being a woman. In fact, without women, this world wouldn’t exist.
As a Sikh, I have been blessed with being empowered as a woman.
Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, once said:
"From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married. Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come. When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound. So why call her bad? From her, kings are born. From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all."
Our Sikh gurus recognized women as equals to men, and fought for women’s rights throughout history. And yet, when we turn to places like Punjab, India, where Sikhism is a dominant religion, we see the ugliness of the traditional patriarchal culture of Indian society ingrained in life. Women are not recognized as equals. Yes, women have a better status today than they did in the past, but are still seen as second to their brothers, and to their husbands. Female infanticide is still on the rise. Why? Why are women constantly degraded in society?
Obviously, this is a problem that can’t be fixed overnight, or even in the next decade. But the only way to create change is to change our way of thinking. Many say this should start with men: until men start treating women as equals, there can be no change. But I don’t agree. This change doesn’t start with men; it starts with women.
Women need to demand respect. Women need to stop hiding in the shadows behind their brothers and their husbands. Women need step up and speak out. Women need to strive to be something amazing in life. Women need to shine. And until we act like we matter, nobody will accept it.
In 1699, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the 10th Sikh Guru, gave women the surname “Kaur.” Princess.
It’s 2011, and I think it’s time we embrace this title of royalty.