Women’s Empowerment 2017-2018 

Women’ Empowerment 2017-2018 

First workshop started with raising awareness about women’s health, in particular cervical cancer. 2 SAFA members presented information about what is cervical cancer and how can one protect and prevent this from occurring. There were 25 south Asian women ranging in age from 40 to 70. They had many stories about women who have had cancer and also had many questions, not only cancer but also other health issue.

Cervical Cancer and Preventive Screening

The most important risk factor for developing cervical cancer is infection of the cervix with human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is spread mainly through sexual contact, including sexual intercourse, genital skin-to-skin contact and oral sex.

The virus can appear years after you have been exposed to it. Using a condom and other barriers during sex decreases the chances of getting HPV, but a condom or other barrier can only protect the area it covers. It may be possible to become infected by any uncovered areas.

Who should be screened

If you’ve ever been sexually active, you should start having regular Pap tests by the time you’re 21. You’ll need a Pap test every 1 to 3 years, depending on your previous test results.

Even if you have stopped having sex, you should continue to have a Pap test. If you’ve had a hysterectomy, talk to your doctor about whether you may still need a Pap test..

Pap test

A Pap test is a quick and simple test that looks for any changes in the cells of the cervix. It’s usually done in your doctor’s office or in a clinic – and though it can be uncomfortable, it shouldn’t be painful.

Preparing for your test

Try to schedule your Pap test for the middle of your menstrual cycle – between 10 and 20 days after the first day of your period.

48 hours before your Pap test

Don’t use vaginal douche, any vaginal medications or contraceptive (spermicidal) creams, foams or jellies (unless your doctor has told you to). These products may wash away or hide abnormal cells.

24 hours before your Pap test

Avoid having sex.

What happens during a Pap test

The doctor or nurse will use a small wooden spatula to gently scrape the surface of the lower part of the cervix to pick up cells. A special brush called a cytobrush is used to get cells from the upper part of the cervix that leads into the uterus. The cells are then smeared onto a glass slide, and the sample is sent to the lab where it’s looked at under a microscope. If the screening test shows a change or abnormality, you may have follow-up tests. They could include:

  • another Pap test

  • an HPV test

  • colposcopy

  • biopsy

An abnormal Pap test means that there have been changes to the cells living the cervix. In some cases, it means that a precancerous condition is present. These can be treated successfully so they don’t develop into cancer. Most precancerous changes in the cervix are caused by HPV infection.

Second Workshop

This was followed in Dec 2017 with another very powerful workshop about common rituals and its impact on well-being.

Cultural rituals/celebration and their significance for women

Cultural rituals and celebrations are very important for the well-being of individuals and communities at large, whether they be Canadian rituals and celebrations or traditional South Asian rituals and celebrations.  Having identified this, the South Asian Family Association (SAFA) is under taking a Women’s Empowerment series looking at the theme of cultural rituals and celebrations and their significance for women of all backgrounds. This monthly gathering will focus on a variety of topics and invite experts from the South Asian and mainstream community to share their skills and knowledge surrounding this theme. Our first gathering is on December 8th, 2017 at Punjab Bhawan Surrey from 5-8PM

Social practices, rituals and festive events are important activities that structure the lives of communities and groups and are activities that are shared by and relevant to many members of these communities and groups. Cultural rituals are significant because they help reaffirm the identity of those who follow the rituals as a group or a society and, for a specific person, may mark a particular event or stage of that individual’s life. They are closely linked to a community’s worldview and perception of its own history and memory.

It has been observed that upon immigration to Western countries, South Asian women tend to adhere to practicing their tradition/ritual celebrations which provide emotional security as well as networking opportunities with others coming from a similar background. In a patriarchal society, it is important for these women to be able to express themselves through various activities while navigating the cultural harmony between their home country and their new Canadian roots.  Many women feel socially isolated upon moving to Canada and in circumstances where domestic abuse exists, having the ability to connect and participate in events focusing on women’s empowerment can serve to create an outlet to assist these vulnerable women.

SAFA invites all those interested to join us in our monthly workshop.  This event is FREE for all who are interested in learning more about the topic and will continue on throughout the year.

SAFA presents Women’s Empowerment series

Punjab Bhawan Surrey

Dec 8, 2017 @ 5-8 pm

Keeping with the Punjabi cultural theme, women came all dressed up to represent their cultural heritage. As one looked around the room, there were about 30 women ranging in age from mid-twenties to late sixty in beautiful Punjabi attire, including phulkari, prandhis and jewellery. They all appeared relaxed and happy enjoying light snacks with chai. The room was decorated with Punjabi folk artifact such as charakh, Mahanadi, dholki, gagar, sarangi, gharha etc. It almost looked like we were in a small Punjabi village gathering.

 Evening started with past SAFA’s board member Manjit Sandhu, giving a brief history of SAFA and followed by another past SAFA board member Suki Grewal. Suki discussed the format of the evening as well as the topic “Cultural ritual/ celebrations and their significance for women”. She also stated the reason for SAFA to undertake this mission. Then she proceeded to introduce the speaker for the evening Ranjit Dhari. Ranjit facilitated a lively discuss about various Punjabi rituals and asked women to share their view about them. It was very interesting to hear their perceptive. Older women talked about how it was extremely difficult for them to adhere to some of these ritual in particular ritual surrounding childbirth due to not having their family support system. However, the younger women had more help as their husband/partners were not as traditional and are willing to share duties or hire help. Women also talked about how they had to change with the time and their surrounding (meaning being in the western culture). Education was cited as the driving force for changing women’s life. For example, the ritual of “Rakhi” where a brother promises to protect and honour his sister. Women felt that they do not need this protection any more as they are able to look after themselves. In addition, the notion that sister ties “rakhi” on brother is no longer applicable. Nowadays, a sister can tie a “rakhi” on a sister!

History & meaning Rakhi or Raksha Bandhan,

Raksha Bandhan is a celebration of relationships between a brother and a sister. In essence it celebrates a special bond of affection between brothers and sisters. Traditionally, It is a day when siblings pray for each other’s' wellbeing and wish for each other’s happiness and goodwill. Brothers promises to protect and honour their sisters and in return sisters pray to god to protect their brothers from any evil.  This relationship is nowhere else in the world.

 In essence, many of the cultural ritual/ celebration has evolved with time. Some of the ritual do have impact on individual’s well-being. Some of these provide emotional well-being while some do have negative impact on health. For example, the practice of Karva Chauth.  Karva Chauth is a one-day festival celebrated by Hindu women in Northern India, in which married women fast from sunrise to moonrise for the safety and longevity of their husbands. For an individual with chronic health condition such as diabetes, it may be detrimental to her health. Women participating in this gathering stated that very few Punjabi women residing in Surrey follow this ritual. They joked about how it is now times for perhaps men to start doing fasting for their wives.

Teeyan is the Punjabi name of the festival of Teej which is celebrated in Punjab and Haryana (where it is also called Haryali teej) which is dedicated to the onset of the monsoon and focuses on daughters and sisters. The festival is celebrated by women during the monsoon season from the third day of the lunar month of Sawan. Married women go to their maternal house to participate in the festivities.  In the past, it was traditional for women to spend the whole month of Sawan with their parents. The festival of teeyan focuses on girls and women getting together in the village green and tying swings to the trees and sing traditional bolyan and dance Gidha. Through the dance and singing, they are telling their life stories of living in their new home. This tradition of women getting together in villages has now become extinct. However, in the western countries, women continue to celebrate Teeyan as a one day long festival where they enjoy dancing and singing.

Following this 45 minutes discussion on rituals, women participated in a bhangra and giddha workshop. There was so much laughter and everyone was clearly enjoying this. Of course there was a lot of teasing going on as well. Then women decided it was time to sing and dance. A dholki player started to play and sing and women let loose. The evening ended with several women receiving a gift for either the best Punjabi dress, hair ornament, best phulkari chuuni or jewelry.

This event could not been possible without the generous support from our sponsors. Govt of BC; Punjab Bhawan & Sukhi Bath Foundation, Nana’s kitchen; Sula restaurant; Pamper Galore; a big thanks to Rina Gill for organizing it in such a short time and doing a wonderful job; past SAFA members (Deep Sandhu, Seema Sharma, Manjit Sandhu, Suki Grewal and Davinder Sandhu) for coming out and supporting and our sincere thanks to the women who so willing shared their views and discussed various means of empowerment.

The 3rd  women’s empowerment workshop took place on Jan 24th at Punjab Bhawan.

Women's Empowerment Dealing with Loss.jpg

The idea was to discuss the many causes of loss. Be it loss of loved one, loss of identity, physical loss, relationship loss or financial loss.

 The session started with open discussion with the audience. Women talked about various losses in their personal lives. One young woman discussed her personal journey of many of the losses mentioned below. She lost a loved one, left her home to come to Canada and had to start all over with her career, and handling the stress related to moving. This was partly due to the fact that her husband was fairly sick and they had young children. Another woman also talked about having a husband with chronic health issues, having to care for him until his death, at the same time caring for her in-laws and children was extremely stressful. In addition, she had to deal with family finances. Some older women talked about losing husbands and having to live with limited means and with family members and feeling like they were burden.  There were many more stories of loss and how women coped with it.

Following open discussion, there were two formal presentations on financial management. It was surprising how interested women were in this topic. They had many questions and were actually taking notes.

Loss due to Immigration:

These losses are usually profound, involving as they do so many of life's anchors and stabilisers. The typically involve losses of status, family roots, financial certainty, losses of support systems, losses of identity, losses of friendships, losses of language, losses of things known and self-evident, losses of cultural identities and certainties, losses of self-image and the like.

Physical Losses:

These are losses which arise from serious illness such as heart attacks, or diagnoses which augur significant changes to a person's life, losses of limbs or other bodily functions such as sight, hearing, mobility and so on. Included in this heading are losses resulting from significant changes in weight, significant changes in physical appearance, the loss of youth and vigour and, finally, losses which result from aging. The losses attendant upon aging encompass both the physical losses of aging - failing organs, impotence and other dysfunctional syndromes, as well as the psychological adjustments needed to face mortality and death.

 Relationship Losses:

 These losses result from divorce or relationship break-up, losses which result from children leaving home (the empty nest syndrome), losses with the end of intimate friendships resulting from disagreements or immigration or death, and, finally, changes in family and social connections due to geographical moves. Loss of traditions and activities with the deceased. Role — spouse, father, mother, sister, brother, friend, caregiver, etc. Support system - Milestones without deceased. Family structure- Future together — for example, the loss of a partner

 Psychological Losses

Of course, all losses are encapsulated under the rubric of psychological losses but it is worth mentioning here, losses of working career resulting from loss of job following retrenchment, or following company relocation, forced retraining, taking early retirement, immigration, or from any other similar type of circumstance

Losses of Freedom

Losses here typically result from imprisonment, but this type of loss can also arise from dramatic medical changes in one's person. Not only is the person medically affected subject to this type of loss; so too is the care-giver. Losses of this type occur also with the birth of a child or result from other changes in the family. Finally, this type of loss often arises from financial hardship Losses Loss of identity; Dreams; Sense of purpose; Memories; Faith; Motivation    

This was an eye opening workshop with regards to financial knowledge and we are thankful to all our speakers and sponsors.

4th workshop was

Women Empowerment Mental Health Awareness workshop.jpg

This was the most powerful workshop. There were many expert panel presenters who shared their knowledge with the audience and encouraged women to discuss their concerns. It was once again good to see so many women sharing what the have seen or heard related to mental health issues as well as how this topic remains a taboo and in the closet. Many touched upon ways to overcome the stigma attached to this condition. One young woman spoke about her journey with depression and how she had planned to end her life. Fortunately, her mother happened to come into her room and the young girls disclosed her feelings and the issues she was dealing with. She was able to receive appropriate treatment and is now an advocate for mental health.

Final session for 2018

SAFA ended the with a small gathering- food and laughter! The purpose of this gathering was to enjoy each others’ company, share food and laughter which in turn will result in stress relief. Women enjoyed high tea and many memories of their lives and some it was so very entertaining that many of the women laughed so much. Here are some images!