‘Before this evening I did not know these names…’ by Annie Ross

yellow, orange, fuchsia, purple and red flowers for the 2nd Sequence, crafted by Hafsah Durrani

Women Who Named the Unnamed

Surrey Muse Arts Society (SMAS)
South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD)
Committee of Progressive Pakistani Canadians (CPPC)

Deep thanks to Fauzia Rafique, for many reasons, but most recently for Women Who Named the Unnamed: Celebration of Pakistani and Canadian Women Heroes, held at Surrey City Hall.

Please excuse me, before this evening with my dear Fauzia, friends, community, and colleagues, i did not know the names Sabeen Mahmud, Fahmida Riaz, Asma Jahangir, Madeeha Gauhar, Sarah Suhail, Sheema Kermani, Kishwar Naheed, Hina Jilani, as i do now. Learning of their lives (via biographical film and commentary), filled me with humility, Power, and shored up my belief in how the life of one person, can, does, has and will make profound movement towards our collective Justice, Rights.

our smallest whisper, our deepest dreams,
our many acts, both humble and large

There are so many aspects one may speak of, regarding this glorious, respectful, intelligent evening. In addition to the creative, courageous genius highlighted in this program, were those who were targeted and killed while performing their work in the world. Martyrdom, legion in the beliefs of many spiritual practices and religions of the world, have a place here, and in history. Heroes in Spirit committed and offered sacrifice in order to reach our collective, potential (yet unfulfilled) Rights and Justice. We can be encouraged here, that our smallest whisper, our deepest dreams, our many acts, both humble and large, can and do bring Rights and Justice to Life. So many live and work for others, Land and all of Earth’s Beings, yet remain invisible, lives censored to history, their righteousness is a shining light in dark times.

we honour those whose work challenges and attempts to transform
state-sponsored disappearances (desaparecidos)

That martyrdom remains a reality of contemporary Canadian Indigenous Rights Actionists, Land Defenders, and Indigenous peoples world-wide, is a heart-breaking fact of our contemporary times, one barely acknowledged in our privileged country. In Women who named the unnamed, we honour those whose work challenges and attempts to transform state-sponsored disappearances (desaparecidos), military interference in civil society, and move towards rights, action, liberation, where the struggles of the poor, marginalized, and oppressed are seen and recognized. Women Who Named the Unnamed honours work and lives of all who are critical to a free and just society.

Thank you to all involved, for educating and enlightening, on people and philosophies needed in our world crying for Equality, Justice, Rights.

To review a video of Women Who Named the Unnamed, suggested here for universities, libraries, and community centres, please check this page where more information will be available soon.
pakistanswomenheroes.wordpress.com/program/videos

Annie Ross (Maya) is a Professor in the Department of First Nations Studies at Simon Fraser University. She developed and taught courses focusing on rights and title, environmental justice, and testimonio as a means to remedy from past political oppressions; Indigenous art histories, technologies/craft, weaving, poetry and poetics, and printmaking as part of a panoply, a canon, of what we mean when we say Indigenous Bioregionalisms.

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View our objectives and goals.

Women Who Named the Unnamed is a project of
Surrey muse Arts Society (SMAS)

We gratefully acknowledge
that we are on the unceded Coast Salish territories of
the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen,
Qayqayt, Tsawwassen, Musqueam,
Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.
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A Never-Seen-Before program ‘Women who Named the Unnamed’ by Ajmer Rode

Program Poster designed by Mariam Zohra D.

‘Surrey weekends have become colorful these days. Variety of cultural programs presented by South Asian artists is one of the reasons. One such program I recently attended was, ‘Women Who named the Unnamed’ the like of which I can hardly remember ever seeing. The program, every aspect of it, exuded creativity and devotion. Truly inspiring. Presented by Surrey Muse Arts Society with some other South Asian organizations, the program celebrated women heroes from Pakistan and Canada. Poets, authors, social and political activists, scholars, theater artists… made the list. The program was presented on the Center Stage Surrey. And the five young women who presented it with their unique graceful artistry seemed to say the unsaid about the women heroes. Kudos to them five sui generis.

‘Each Pakistani woman was introduced highlighting how she challenged the very ethos of Pakistani culture, how she dared question the patriarcho-religious entrenchment that wants to keep women subservient. Salute to their initiatives, courage, dedication and championship. Local women heroes were also lauded for their bold initiatives and pioneer work to empower women in our androcentric milieu.

‘We need more programs like Women Who named the Unnamed. They inspire, especially our youth, to follow and excel their heroes. Our big thanks to Fauzia Rafique and other organizers whose vision and hard work culminated in such a wonderful program.’

From Ajmer Rode’s Facebook post published October 8, 2019.

 

Ajmer Rode is an author, poet and playwright based in Vancouver who has played an important role in the development of literature and art in BC’s Punjabi communities. Visit his Facebook page:

facebook.com/ajmer.rode

 

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View our objectives and goals.

Women Who Named the Unnamed is a project of
Surrey muse Arts Society (SMAS)

We gratefully acknowledge
that we are on the unceded Coast Salish territories of
the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen,
Qayqayt, Tsawwassen, Musqueam,
Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.
..

‘The Honouring of Pakistan’s Women Heroins’ by Teresa Klein


Deep gratitude to Fauzia Rafique and all the amazing women who presented and participated in the deeply moving ‘Women Who Named The Unnamed’ at Surrey City Hall, Center Stage on Saturday September 28. This honouring of Pakistani Women Heroines, the telling of their stories of resiliency and rebellion to the systemically condoned acts of atrocities against women, was delivered with reverence and tender grace.

As audience I felt I was tenderly being initiated. With expanding awareness I felt invited into an extended global family, with attentive youth, tending mothers and Wisdomed Elder-women, all of us bonding through story sharing and kindred heart energy.

My wish is for all, who may not be familiar with or not know the depth of the struggles that have been faced and are still being faced, to have opportunity to be touched by the breaking of the silences of ‘The Women Who Named the Unnamed’ An amazing project and production! Deep Bow!

From Teresa’s October 5 Facebook post
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Teresa Klein is a dreamer and a community leader. She is involved with a Community Garden/Medicine Wheel in Newton, an area of Surrey that has experienced trauma and had visible presence of homelessness and substance abuse issues. Beginning its Fourth growing season, despite its challenges, the Garden has become a centre for community engagement bridging generational, cultural and socio economic gaps to create a warm and welcoming space. theplot.ca. Teresa was an important part of September 28 event where she had provided all flora and fiona for the stage including a custom made wreath, a real tree in a planter, flowers and flowering plants. Thank you, Teresa.

View our objectives and goals.

Women Who Named the Unnamed is a project of
Surrey muse Arts Society (SMAS)

We gratefully acknowledge
that we are on the unceded Coast Salish territories of
the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen,
Qayqayt, Tsawwassen, Musqueam,
Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.
..

‘An Engaging Inspiring Peaceful Calm and a High Caliber Event’ by Harinder Dhahan

End of the 3rd Sequence – Sunera Thobani, Surjeet Kalsey, Deanna Reder, Harsha Walia, Darshan Mann – with Hina Imam, Sameena Siddisui, Sana Janjua, Hafsah Durrani – photo by Sophia Eugeni

Celebration of Pakistani & Local Women Heroes

‘I along with my brother, sister, daughter and a niece were privileged to attend the Celebration of Pakistani & Local Women Heroes. It was an eyeopener to watch and realize how much adversity and hardship women go through to fight for their own and others’ rights. They take and are still taking daring steps to bring justice and equality. The women heroes advocated in diverse ways – through protests, dance/artistic performances, writing/publishing and providing safe spaces for women to express themselves.

‘The celebration was well organized with creativity, thoughtfulness, love and respect for all. The women who took the initiative to recognize, honour and celebrate the work being done by the women heroes are already walking in the footsteps of those great women fighters in order to continue their work. The presenters conducted this program in such a way by which they got the audience fully engaged. For example, when the presenters would light the candles, take off their flowers and attach them to the wreath after each segment, it gave the audience time to let the stories resonate and be an integral part of the whole program. All the participants/speakers were welcomed to the stage with genuine and sincere respect.

‘Just as the heroes’ work needs to continue, these events should continue to reach a wider audience in order to bring awareness about what’s happening in the women’s world and how women are trying to reach out by putting their own lives in danger.

‘All the organizers and helpers may have put in countless hours, effort and collective energy to produce such an engaging, inspirational, peaceful, calm and a high clibre event. I would like to commend the excellent work you have done. All the best in your future endeavors.’

View our objectives and goals.

Women Who Named the Unnamed is a project of
Surrey muse Arts Society (SMAS)

We gratefully acknowledge
that we are on the unceded Coast Salish territories of
the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen,
Qayqayt, Tsawwassen, Musqueam,
Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

..

‘So Proud of You Mom’ by Shayla Dawn Szabo

Katheren Szabo, Woman of Courage, at Saturday’s celebration

So honoured to have attended the Women who Named the Unnamed tonight, and so proud to hear my mom speak and open the event- such powerful messages and inspiration throughout the entire event.

Shayla Dawn Szabo at ‘Women Who Named the Unnamed’

I can’t put the words together to tell you how amazing it was. I’m in complete agreement with our friend Teresa who spoke to us at the intermission of how this should be an event that should reach schools and be televised and reoccurring to reach, inspire and touch the hearts and minds of the many whom it would definitely impact.


Third and the last Sequence, Celebrate the (here) and Now, Guests and the Hosts

Thank-you Fauzia, and Mariam and all who brought together ‘The Women who Named the Unnamed’, thank you Mom, for you truly are The Woman of Courage and so much more in my heart and in many others’.

Thank you Teresa and Rella for the gift of your company and support for my mom.


Katheren’s voice reaches out as a Woman of Courage

Thank you Mom, you have given your all to lift and love. You make me so proud. You give me hope, community, courage, choice, empowerment, confidence, so much love and so much more, you are a leading example to me and you are the best mom I could ever have asked for. So deeply blessed to journey in life as your daughter… and to stand beside you as I grow and learn through experience. To follow your lead, and to take steps on my own with tools you have taught me and continue to teach. I love you.


Shayla on Centre Stage 

Based on Shayla’s Facebook post published on the evening of September 28

Read Katheren’s story
‘Katheren Szabo: The Heart of Newton’ by Zoë J. Dagneault

View our objectives and goals.

We gratefully acknowledge
that we are on the unceded Coast Salish territories of
the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen,
Qayqayt, Tsawwassen, Musqueam,
Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

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Canada’s Women Heroes : Harsha Walia

Women who Named the Unnamed
Celebrate the (here and) Now

Harsha Walia
author/activist/organizer

Community First, Movement Second:
A Short Bio of Harsha Walia

By Jessica Barratt

…the most important feature of powerful
social movements, is an affirmation of community
.’
– From ‘Young, Brown and Proud:
Personal purpose and political activism’ by Harsha Walia

Connection requires a crossing of boundaries. It requires seeing one thing in another without disturbance of difference: that old mean thing still snipping at the threads we THE PEOPLE weave when we breach the gap between ourselves and another, when we see ourselves as one. And it seems these days that those who are best at connecting were born to difference, too. With wide focus, they can see it for what it truly is and pass through as if there were no boundary at all—grasping at those other strands with ease and bringing the rest of us gratefully along.

Like Harsha Walia, who has taken up the threads of so many; who has brought us many times through the boundary of difference only to reveal that our causes (the things we want and strive for most) are more connected than we could have ever believed. That it doesn’t matter where we cross through, but rather, that we do it together.

Born in Bahrain and now living in Vancouver (unceded Coast Salish, Treaty 8 territories), British Columbia, Harsha bears a legacy of being both a part of a struggle, and an experiencer of it: both fighting for the rights of South Asian, Indigenous, and other marginalized communities, and against the vestiges of Canadian colonialism (and post-colonialism) through continued activism close to home. At the same time, she extends her critical views into controversial action, tackling the closely-related injustices still thriving all across Canada and even bravely addressing the United Nations—among other political bodies across the globe.

As she puts it in a 2013 interview: ‘…the drive for me around activism [is] really both of those things – wanting to be involved for struggles around freedom and liberation wherever they take place, and seeing that as part of a global system, and bearing witness to the impacts of borders and the ways in which they tear apart communities in real and violent ways.

Harsha has in fact been hailed as one of Canada’s most brilliant and effective organizers. In 2001, she co-founded one of Canada’s prolific anti-colonial, anti-racist, and anti-capitalist migrant justice movements, No One Is Illegal (NOII), and in 2003 began assisting with the Skwelkwek’welt Protection Centre toward land protection aims, among other related Indigenous-focused causes. She has further accumulated the interests of minority and marginalized communities through her work supporting Ide No More, the Defenders of the Land Network, and the South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy, forever cultivating her unique knack for drawing people together under a joint banner: equality.

Dually involved with anti-poverty and feminist activism through her work as a project coordinator for the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre – where she facilitates a Power of Women group – Harsha has also actively been involved with several other Downtown Eastside housing justice coalitions, and continues to evoke the passions of those similarly drawn in supporting the struggles of other vulnerable, poverty-stricken groups searching for change.

For over a decade, Harsha has therefore contributed her voice and self to these and other often-neglected causes brought up by NOII—like deportation, incarceration, land claims, violence, privacy and consent, and education. She has been a fundamental force shaping long-standing events like the February 14th Women’s Memorial March, and the Annual Community March Against Racism. In 2010 alone, she not only stood her ground during the No Olympics on Stolen Native land convergence – later that year risking arrest and facing detention herself on behalf of her support during the G8 and G20 protests in Toronto – but again committed to an act of protest that saw her arrested during a national day of action for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Harsha has of course received several accolades for her work – she is for instance a recipient of the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives Power of Youth Award and Westender’s Best of the City awards in Activism and Change-Making – but this hasn’t stoppered her motivation for pursuing still-needed change. Today, she continues to be an active board member with Shit Harper Did, and is a youth mentor for Check Your Head, where she passes on incredible insights on how to be a change-maker, and how to make sure one’s voice is heard in harmony with the cries of others.

While her preference for opening up conversations surrounding migrant solidarity and gender violence do take precedent through much of her activist work, Harsha has become more comfortable exploring her own perspectives as both a woman of colour and a successful organizer of large movements through writing. Credited with over 30 publications ranging in subject, Harsha has time and again highlighted the collective anti-imperialist struggles of minority peoples all across Canada.

It is perhaps her first full-length publication though – Undoing Border Imperialism – which best captures Harsha’s uniquely precise outlook on connection and movement-building.

Connected to this piece around undoing border imperialism is, as movements, how do we undo the bordered logic within our own movements,’ says Harsha of the work. ‘That really ended up being the inspiration for writing this book – hoping that it was in the service of something more collective.

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Jessica Barratt is a literary enthusiast, feminist, and creative writer. The proud owner of JB Editing, and manager of online blog wordsofhers.com, Barratt continues to captivate readers with fearsome short stories as she works toward the completion of her inaugural novel, Domingo.
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Women Who Named the Unnamed
Pakistan’s & Local Women Heroes

Saturday, September 28, 2019
6 – 9 PM
Centre Stage
Surrey City Hall
13450 – 104 Avenue
Surrey, BC, Canada V3T 1V8
Phone: 604-591-4011

Buy your ticket online at this link:
tickets.surrey.ca
Tickets $25
Box Office : 604-501-5566

More information
Women-who-named-the-unnamed
In-gratitude-we-celebrate-our-women-heroes
View our objectives and goals.

We gratefully acknowledge
that we are on the unceded Coast Salish territories of
the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen,
Qayqayt, Tsawwassen, Musqueam,
Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

..

Canada’s Women Heroes : Deanna Reder

Women who Named the Unnamed
Celebrate the (here and) Now

Deanna Reder
scholar/author/historian

Deanna Reder: A Giving Voice
By Jessica Barratt

Canadians have been deprived of impressive, provocative, challenging, and visionary writing by Indigenous authors, some who have written before Canada began… My work is to bring these authors back into scholarly conversations and public access, while at the same time celebrating a new generation of upcoming writers.’

Here in Canada, many still shy away from the basic truth of our colonial history: that European settlers erased the voices of entire populations already living here, stifling the heart of What-We-Could-Have-Been.

Even today reconciliation with this truth sometimes seems little more than a distant hope on the horizon; and yet, there are those who refuse to let such a cause die. Who give even their voices to this truth above all else, and who aren’t afraid to stand up for the many voices which were lost then—voices of healing that we need now more than ever to understand.

A Giving Voice is Deanna Reder.

Continually in the face of ignorance, Deanna has lent her voice to revealing untold truths hidden behind years of equally untold history: speaking out against the strange forces that seek to keep those stories secret, unnamed, and obscured by a colonial lens. As a Cree-Métis woman, she has with that voice uncovered the aspects of colonization which still pervade our educational, social, and political systems, proving time and again her strength amid what must certainly feel like constant, daunting resistance.

Deanna has thus dedicated her life and career to passing on – and drawing attention to – the quieted stories of Indigenous peoples, truly becoming a woman ‘naming the unnamed’. From drawing out the lost mysteries still plaguing her own community, to uncovering the difficult-to-hear accounts of the trauma and genocide experienced by fellow Cree and Metis (among too many other Indigenous populations), Deanna has become above all else a force of truth-making to be reckoned with.

Presently an Associate Professor in the Departments of First Nations Studies and English at Simon Fraser University (SFU), Deanna exemplifies her proud cultural heritage through a curriculum of Indigenous popular fiction and Canadian Indigenous literature, focusing her own research in that area on the previously unpublished works of other Indigenous writers including Vera Manuel, James Brady, Maria Campbell, and Alootook Ipellie.

Deanna has equally contributed to this growing field of Indigenous literary study, committed as a writer, editor, and anthologizer to building a better – and much less British-centric – framework for how we as a country approach and analyze Indigenous texts and literature. As she puts it:

‘Canadians have been deprived of impressive, provocative, challenging, and visionary writing by Indigenous authors, some who have written before Canada began…My work is to bring these authors back into scholarly conversations and public access, while at the same time celebrating a new generation of upcoming writers.’

Deanna’s work has therefore continued focus on a gravely neglected Indigenous autobiographical record, challenging a widespread cultural disregard of Indigenous literary perspectives, and using her voice as a platform on which others’ histories may be heard. From one of her earliest co-edited publications in 2010, Troubling Tricksters: Revisioning Critical Conversations to her most recent from this year – a collection of the works of Vera Manuel called Honouring the Strength of Indian Women, edited with Michelle Coupal, Joanne Arnott, and Emalene Manuel – and everything in between (Learn, Teach, Challenge: Approaching Indigenous Literatures (2016), Read, Listen, Tell: Indigenous Stories from Turtle Island), Deanna has helped both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians better understand where we come from, and who we are.

In 2015 as well, around the same time that she became the second president of the Indigenous Literary Studies Association (ILSA), (that she founded, and where she served on the board until 2018), Deanna also became Principal Investigator for a five-year SSHRC project titled, The People and the Text: Indigenous Writing in Northern North America up to 1992, in partnership with co-applicants Dr. Margery Fee and Cherokee scholar Dr. Daniel Heath Justice of the University of British Columbia (See thepeopleandthetext.ca). Over the course of the last four or so years, then, Deanna has found yet another way to contribute to Canada’s Indigenous artists, working collaboratively with Canadian scholars like herself who hope to produce a major database on Indigenous writings— one of the first databases of its kind.

Deanna’s remarkable achievements continue to reflect her dedication to ‘re-visioning’ the ways in which many Canadians have misguidedly contextualized the stories of Indigenous, Metis, and First Nations peoples, even beyond the almost 152 years since Canada sought independence. Not only was she recently named to the Royal Society’s College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists, but she has also been appointed as Acting Dean of Libraries for SFU’s Fall 2019 Semester.

Today, Deanna Reder is all this and so much more: both co-chair of the Indigenous Voices Awards and Series Editor for the Indigenous Studies Series at Wilfrid Laurier University Press, she supports emerging Indigenous writers as they find their own voices— even helping to re-open an unsolved cold case relating to the disappearances of two Metis men in the late 60s. In fact, it is through her autobiographical focus on storytelling that Deanna continues to be the very mentor she wants to see in today’s literary climate, herself acting as a bastion for Indigenous access to publishing and increased recognition.

Deanna has thus, in her own way, become a priceless resource for Canadian Indigenous knowledge-sharing, giving her voice to the next generation of Indigenous artists who will continue to guide the trajectory she has set them on, dispelling the so-often negative perceptions of Indigenous cultures for generations to come. Thanks to her diligent work – and thanks to those who have contributed to anthologizing these narratives – no longer can settler-writers get away with telling Indigenous stories from a non-native perspective alone, forced instead to finally join the multiplicity they sought to destroy— but couldn’t.
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(A Giving Voice (n):
A person who hands themselves over in the service of revealing truth; who gives¬ even their voice in making sure the untold is spoken.)
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Jessica Barratt is a literary enthusiast, feminist, and creative writer. The proud owner of JB Editing, and manager of online blog wordsofhers.com, Barratt continues to captivate readers with fearsome short stories as she works toward the completion of her inaugural novel, Domingo.
.
.

Women Who Named the Unnamed
Pakistan’s & Local Women Heroes

Saturday, September 28, 2019
6 – 9 PM
Centre Stage
Surrey City Hall
13450 – 104 Avenue
Surrey, BC, Canada V3T 1V8
Phone: 604-591-4011

Buy your ticket online at this link:
tickets.surrey.ca
Tickets $25
Box Office : 604-501-5566

More information
Women-who-named-the-unnamed
In-gratitude-we-celebrate-our-women-heroes
View our objectives and goals.

We gratefully acknowledge
that we are on the unceded Coast Salish territories of
the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen,
Qayqayt, Tsawwassen, Musqueam,
Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

..

Canada’s Women Heroes : Darshan Mann

Women who Named the Unnamed
Celebrate the (here and) Now

Darshan Mann
theatre actor/activist/organizer

Darshan Mann : From Struggles to Success
By Parabjot Kaur Singh

British Columbia’s Punjabi community saw a surge of cultural production led by Punjabi writers, artists and activists in the 1970s and the 80s when, among other things, about half a dozen full length Punjabi plays were staged addressing various issues impacting the community. Darshan Mann became the face of that socially aware theatre as she enacted different aspects of the lives of Punjabi women in Canada.

In the play, ‘Sharbati’ (woman’s name), Darshan plays the role of a woman who gets married without her consent. When she fails to conceive a baby, she is forced to seduce her brother-in-law to have a child. The role of this female character depicts a victim and a survivor. ‘Sharbati’ was a two-and-a-half-hour play written by Rana Jung Bahadar, directed by Mohan Bagan and produced by Sumat Kendar. In her next play, ‘Ik Kuri Ik Supna (a girl a dream), Darshan projects a woman who suffers emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her husband. She takes the steps to heal by seeking professional help. ‘Ik Kuri Ik Supna’ was a forty-five-minute play written by Ajmer Rode, directed by Ajmer Rode and Bhupinder Dhaliwal, and produced by Sumat Kendar. Darshan played a young, married woman with two daughters in the play, ‘Nirlujj’ (without shame), where she becomes pregnant again, and has to face expectations to have a male child from her extended family. Her husband is advised to marry his wife’s sister. ‘Nirlujj’ was written by Ajmer Rode, directed by Bhupinder Dhaliwal and produced by Sumat Kendar.

Apart from playing various leading roles depicting Punjabi women, Darshan also played an authoritarian male figure in a play that explored how the wife’s health is neglected and ignored by her husband and in-laws. This forty-five-minute play was produced by Jyoti Sanghera and Darshan. In ‘Dhalde PerchhaaweiN’ (fading shadows), Darshan was an elderly married women who is deprived of her son’s love. Since her son settled abroad, both she and her husband wait for his return. ‘Dhalde PerchhaaweiN’ explores isolation and loneliness faced by elderly parents. In another play, ‘Navi PeeRhi’ (new generation), Darshan was a young college girl who falls in love with a classmate. After their families give their consent for marriage, the mother-in-law provides a long list of dowry items to the bride’s family. The bride-to-be objects to this tradition and tries to persuade her fiancé to reason with his mother. ‘Navi PeeRhi’ was collectively written by the team members. As well, Darshan actively participated in the play, ‘TooRi Vala Kotha’ (storage room for hay). This play portrayed the different stages of women’s empowerment. Each character represented progressive and proactive women who were strong enough to challenge and withhold tradition. Her performances, plays and skits include the acclaimed stage play, ‘MahileeN VasdeeyaN DheeaN’ (daughters living in castles). Without fail, her performances liberated women and imparted a sense of agency.

Working on the stage in the Punjabi-Canadian community carved a pathway for Darshan to connect with her cultural roots, especially Punjabi literature. Darshan mentions how she was admitted in the hospital while pregnant with her daughter, Pamela, when her sister-in-law introduced her to the great Punjabi writer, Gurbakhsh Singh Preetlari. She gifted her with his book, ‘Ishq Jina De Hadhi Racheya’. After reading ‘Preetlari’ (love string) magazines, Darshan regained her strength and resilience. As a matter of fact, Darshan learned how to read the Punjabi language while reading Gurbakhsh Singh Preetlari’s literary works. Darshan gained internal strength and a voice that she continues to use today. Interestingly, Gurbakhsh Singh Preetlari paid Darshan a visit while he was on a tour in Vancouver. Darshan remembers how this meeting was one of the most memorable and life-changing moments of her life. She immersed herself in Punjabi literature for the next ten years, with some detours in other languages including writings by Russian author Maxim Gorky that further strengthened her inner self.

Darshan found an opportunity to work with the provincial New Democratic Party (NDP), and as the Campaign Manager for Penny Priddy, she managed and organized campaign roles and duties for the upcoming elections. After Penny Priddy won the election, Darshan assisted Priddy’s MLA office as the CA. At that point, Darshan was one the few South Asian women to work as a CA for the NDP’s Ministry of Gender Equality. Subsequently, her work in politics and ability to organize people for a cause led to her being sought out to help with many political campaigns.

As Darshan’s involvement increased with BC’s NDP, she was already making a positive difference, not only in the office, but in the wider Punjabi-Canadian community. In the 1990s, the NDP agreed to provide funding for the new Senior Centre on Scott Road and 72nd Avenue in Surrey while the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple provided the land. Darshan was supportive of the project but she noticed that there was no place for women to socialize, organize and meet one another. So, she approached the organizers and created a large gathering room on the top floor that began the long-standing tradition of a ‘Social Thursday’ that is still being practiced today.

Now, sitting in her artful yet humble living room, Darshan Mann reminisced about her life journey from Nainital, India to Vancouver, Canada. Darshan was born in Bhairomunna, a small village near Sahnewal, Punjab. At six months of age, she migrated with her parents to Nainital in Uttarakhand where she obtained her basic, formal education. As soon as she completed her secondary education in 1964, Darshan got married and immigrated to Vancouver in 1964. There, Darshan gave birth to her son, Tishi. She was blessed with two more children, Rajeev and Pamela.

Darshan continued her education in Canada taking specialized courses in bookkeeping, accounting and typing. Darshan began to work as a Community Support Worker with the Indo-Canadian Society, and later with Canada Revenue Agency. But it was while working as a receptionist for a medical clinic that Darshan came across patients where sixty percent were from the Punjabi-Canadian community. Reviewing and analyzing patients’ files, Darshan noticed that a number of South Asian women were being sexually and physically abused by their husbands and/or by the prominent members of the larger Punjabi-Canadian community. These shocking facts prompted Darshan to take a stand against the injustices toward South Asian women.

While working in theatre, Darshan was heartbroken after her oldest son, Tishi, passed away from an asthma attack. She regained her strength through acting and the immense support provided to her by the members of India Mahila Association (IMA) a Punjabi women’s organization that Darshan is a part of, and her close friends from literary and theatre groups.

Darshan acknowledges India Mahila Association (IMA) as the pillar that gave her the strength to rise from the emotional pain she battled with. Darshan believes that the India Mahila Association provided her with the opportunities to gain internal strength and a strong voice. Darshan actively participated in the education committee, culture committee and the victim support groups. Darshan remained an active member and participant with the India Mahila Association for most of her life. Darshan worked closely with women such as poetess/author Surjeet Kalsey by organizing workshops through Battered Women’s Support Services, and with social justice activist, Raminder Dosanjh, Darshan produced talk shows about sensitive issues on Sushma Dutt’s radio programs. Another way Darshan assisted and supported women was through the Rape Relief Services: Women Against Violence Against Women as the executive of the committee.

While serving many different roles and positions in the IMA, Darshan developed strong relationships with survivors, authors, poets, social and political activists from the Punjabi-Canadian community. These relationships gave rise to the the strong, independent, and strong-willed stage actress, Darshan Mann.

At this time, Darshan focuses on her housekeeping business, and through her business, she continues to fight for women’s rights by assisting immigrant women with English language training, life skills, and employment opportunities.

Darshan lives an independent, and simple life. She enjoys spending quality time with her son, Rajeev Mangat, daughter-in-law, Tej, granddaughters, Reyana and Maya, daughter, Pamela Gill, son-in-law, Ranjit Gill, three grandsons, Avani, Ishan, Yashin and granddaughter, Ashni. Darshan spreads positive vibes with her friends and continues to support causes that she cares deeply about: social justice, human rights, literature, theatre, and political activism.
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Parabjot Kaur Singh is a writer, radio host and activist. Her poems have been published in the PULP, a literary arts magazine of Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), and in RAINBOW: Anthology of South Asian Writers by South Asian Literary Society of Canada. She has presented her work at Surrey Muse, Surrey Muse Writers, and at KPU’s poetry gatherings and year end readings.
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Women Who Named the Unnamed
Pakistan’s & Local Women Heroes

Saturday, September 28, 2019
6 – 9 PM
Centre Stage
Surrey City Hall
13450 – 104 Avenue
Surrey, BC, Canada V3T 1V8
Phone: 604-591-4011

Buy your ticket online at this link:
tickets.surrey.ca
Tickets $25
Box Office : 604-501-5566

More information
Women-who-named-the-unnamed
In-gratitude-we-celebrate-our-women-heroes
View our objectives and goals.

We gratefully acknowledge
that we are on the unceded Coast Salish territories of
the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen,
Qayqayt, Tsawwassen, Musqueam,
Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

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Pakistan’s Women Heroes : Sarah Suhail

Women who Named the Unnamed
Tribute to the Brilliance

Sarah Suhail
queer feminist activist

Building Spaces of Love, Acceptance
and Compassion for Pakistani Queers

By Kyla Pasha

She reminds you that she’s walking next to you
when you think you’re behind her, or in front of her
.’

Those who know Sarah Suhail know two things about her from the off: she smiles a lot, and she can probably help you out. Sarah, born in a family of doctors in Lahore in 1982, is a lawyer, teacher, and avid learner who is known among her friends and comrades as generous with her time, spirit, and resources. She has been an integral part of feminist, queer, and working peoples’ organizing coming out of Lahore in the last 15 years as she has lent her great diversity of energies to a number of movements and formations in that time. In 2008, she co-founded Chay Magazine with me, Pakistan’s first known effort to have a consistent conversation around sex and sexuality. Around that time she became involved with organizing mutual learning and support with queer people and, over a decade on, she continues to prove herself instrumental to building autonomy, self-sufficiency, and strength among Pakistani queers.

Beyond these words, it is hard to encapsulate Sarah’s life thus far in a chronology that makes sense. That is to say, with the wealth of her life still before her, Sarah has managed to hoover up a tremendous amount of knowledge across a wide breadth of arenas. She is a lawyer of the high court and a member of the Punjab Bar council, yet is known mostly for her work in (first private and then) public sector universities as a teacher and mentor. Her own undergraduate degrees are in Economics and Law, and her masters and PhD are in women’s studies; across all of which she has followed a passion for justice.

With feminist comrades, Sarah organized a public conversation between women on ‘Sexism in leftist and progressive spaces‘, an event that sparked the formation of The Feminist Collective (TFC). TFC is an autonomous feminist collective that searches for and creates opportunities to intervene constructively to highlight important feminist intersections. Simultaneously, she has worked with and learned from the struggles of fisherfolk, landless peasants, prisoners, and escaped bonded labourers.

I asked her comrades, our mutual comrades, what they would say about her if they were given this job. One said, ‘For me, it is her moral clarity in the pursuit of justice, even in the most befuddling and harsh circumstances, — the kind that gives you the strength to speak truth to power yet always remain open to growth and learning — that have truly made me see her as a mentor and moral guide in many respects.’ Another, supposedly just riffing with me so I could get started on this piece, said, ‘She reminds you that she’s walking next to you when you think you’re behind her, or in front of her.’ And a little while later, ‘She’s everyone’s unknown heart.’

That this resonates with me is no surprise to anyone who knows that Sarah Suhail has been my first and last advisor, confidante, co-learner, and friend every minute that I have known her. She stands among the women in this celebration fidgeting restlessly and smiling shyly: Sarah understands herself as one in a web of many working towards building something better, and more just, than what we currently endure. In that struggle, wherever she can be of service, Sarah shows up.

Below is a Q&A with Sarah.

When did you realize that you were different?
I had a sense of my difference from an early age but it manifested itself as unease with the expectations to conform with conventional femininity. I realized I was properly queer when I was 17 and I fell in love with my first girlfriend.

When did you own it in public?
I’ve been doing queer organizing since 2007-2008 and we started working underground very slowly trying to create a sense of community. But over time, most people in the movements that I work with know that I’m queer. I spoke about it at a conference in Lahore, but largely I try not to talk about it too openly since security is always a concern in our context.

How was it for you to grow up queer in Lahore?
Growing up queer in Lahore was both isolating and wondrous. Isolating since I didn’t know anyone else like me so I thought that I was alone and wondrous because since I felt intrinsically different I felt I had my own world where I had to fight at every step to be different but still felt loved by mother and the rest of my family. It was strange I guess, so they never really made a big deal about how I was gender non-conforming and gave me space to be who I wanted even when outside everyone sort of taunted and bullied me for not fitting in. Over time though as I grew, I enjoyed the freedom of not having to conform to the requirements of convectional femininity. I didn’t fully recognize the difference in upbringing since my grandmother was the head of our household and I was essentially being brought up in a matriarchy. It was a beautiful and magical thing that made me believe that I could achieve anything I put my mind to irrespective of gender.

How about queer communities?
For the queer community in Lahore we are slowly but surely building spaces of love, acceptance and compassion even when we face the violence of compulsory heterosexuality and natal rejection. This is violence faced from people closest to us. So, to heal and recover from it and build community that doesn’t replicate those toxic patterns is a slow and painstaking process. We are loving and courageously engaged in this process.

Do queer women feel supported by the feminist movement/s in Punjab and Pakistan?
The interface of the feminist movement and the queer movement is so important because we can’t do it alone. Feminist ethics, solidarity, poetry and openness that the women’s movement creates in society is foundational for queer acceptance. That is why some of our work focuses on how our queerness helped develop our feminist consciousness and how our feminism impacts our queerness.
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Kyla Pasha is poet and feminist activist based in Lahore. Her first volume of poetry, High Noon and the Body, was released in 2010. She is also the co-editor of Two Loves: Faiz’s Letters from Jail. Kyla researches religious life and national structures interfacing with sexuality; and is pursuing a PhD in Religious Studies at Arizona State University, focusing on ritual spaces and utopic longings in marginal Muslim communities. She is currently working on her second book of poems.

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Women Who Named the Unnamed
Pakistan’s & Local Women Heroes

Saturday, September 28, 2019
6 – 9 PM
Centre Stage
Surrey City Hall
13450 – 104 Avenue
Surrey, BC, Canada V3T 1V8
Phone: 604-591-4011

Buy your ticket online at this link:
tickets.surrey.ca
Tickets $25
Box Office : 604-501-5566

More information
Women-who-named-the-unnamed
In-gratitude-we-celebrate-our-women-heroes
View our objectives and goals.

We gratefully acknowledge
that we are on the unceded Coast Salish territories of
the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen,
Qayqayt, Tsawwassen, Musqueam,
Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

..

Canada’s Women Heroes : Surjeet Kalsey

Women who Named the Unnamed
Celebrate the (here and) Now

Surjeet Kalsey
poet/author/translator

Surjeet Kalsey: The Woman Who Continues to Speak Up
against Patriarchy

By Mandeep Wirk

Often the subject dictates the form. Still poetry’s spontaneous burst of lyrical thought is closest to my heart.’

Surjeet Kalsey has the unique honor of being the only writer in Canada’s Punjabi Sikh community who has produced over the years a sizeable body of woman/migrant-woman focused Punjabi literature such as poems, short stories and stage plays, and she has also been active in building Punjabi writers community in Vancouver while challenging the community’s male dominated environment by speaking up and taking a stand for women’s participation, representation and empowerment.

Surjeet’s writings and social activism have been instrumental in both guiding and facilitating the ‘institutional completeness’ of the Punjabi-Canadian community. The Punjabi Cultural Association was founded in 1972 and the Punjabi Literary Association of Vancouver in 1973, just before Surjeet landed in Canada. She has been an active founding member of the Punjabi Literary Association of Vancouver since the early seventies, and she is also a founder of Samaanta (1982), Women’s Sahara Group Abbotsford (1996), and Punjabi Literature Society Abbotsford (2008). In 2014, Surjeet was the first woman writer to win the University of British Columbia (UBC)’s Writers Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to the development of Punjabi literature, Punjabi culture, promotion of Punjabi language as mother tongue in Canada, and for introducing mainstream Canada to Punjabi literature through her translations. Surjeet edited Contemporary Literature in Translation in 1977, presenting the work of 24 Punjabi writers, bilingual readings were held and attended by English speakers of various ethnicities, allowing Punjabi poetry into the larger society. In 1992, Surjeet published the anthology Glimpses of Twentieth Century Punjabi Poetry in English Translation, presenting 55 poets from Punjab and its diaspora.

In 1982, her play ‘Mehlin Wasdiyan Dhiyan: Daughters Behind Palace Doors’ addressing wife assault was performed in New Westminster, it was the start of Punjabi women’s theatre here in BC. This was the first South Asian Canadian play on the unspoken issue of violence against women on a public stage, and interestingly, some of the actors included women survivors from support groups using drama therapy. Later, her collection of seven three-act plays of the same name came out in 2002 that examines wife abuse, sex selection, parent-child conflict, visa getting process, quality of life of South Asian immigrant women in Canada, relationship of immigrant women to their sponsors, and the hopes and dreams of immigrants for a better life in Canada. All the plays in the collection have been successfully performed on stage in New Westminster, Surrey, and Abbotsford.

Surjeet was born in Amritsar and grew up there. Having lost her mother when she was very young, Surjeet, her sister, and brother were raised by their father. Then her father passed away when she was just ten years old, and her older sister assumed the responsibility of raising and educating her siblings. It is devastating to lose beloved parents at any age, but even more so when one is so young. From her early teens, Surjeet started to channel her grief into writing poems. She went onto attend Punjab University in Chandigarh where she completed her Masters in English, and another in Punjabi. Upon graduation, she secured a government job as a News Anchor of ‘Pradeshik Samachar : Regional News’ for All India Radio Chandigarh. She had been working as a news broadcast journalist for five years when her sister felt that it was time for Surjeet to get married. She met Ajmer Rode, an Indo-Canadian writer and engineer, and the couple married in 1973. In 1974, Surjeet immigrated to Canada. She later commented that she had already built a complete life for herself in India, but now in Canada she had to start all over again, retraining and finding a job.

Settling in Vancouver, Surjeet joined the MFA Program in Creative Writing at UBC, receiving her third master’s degree in 1978. She also took training at Battered Women’s Support Services, did volunteer work in transition homes and women’s shelters, and held support groups for battered women. This led her to study further and in 1997 she graduated from UBC with her M.Ed. in counselling psychology. Since then Surjeet has worked as a counselor and family therapist.

Her writings don’t just explore lives of women and migrant women. In her poem ‘Siddhartha Does Penance Again’, Surjeet presents the reality of majority of migrants whose anguish of displacement from everything familiar is likened to the pain experienced by Prince Siddhartha who abandoned his family and the comforts of palace life to search for the end of human suffering in the real world. However, the immigrants instead of finding themselves enjoying a better life in Canada, are left with the bitter feeling of disillusionment when all their hopes and dreams are smashed. Here is an excerpt from ‘Siddhartha Does Penance Again’:

Every day they pack us into closed wagons
to dump us into the raspberry strawberry or blueberry fields
When the sun dives into the other side of the mountain
we are brought home shaken and tired
I throw myself into the fourth corner of the common room
Swallowing several bitter droughts of somrus
Every day I try to write to you with my aching fingers
So that I may tell you
I’ll come home very soon
or I’ll apply for your immigration very soon
Contemporary Literature in Translation 1977, 33-34

At considerable personal cost, Surjeet continues to speak out about how women are silenced in myriad situations. In literary circles, how male writers undermine women by interrupting women writers as they try to express their viewpoints or they will not be allowed as much time as the men, and, how women’s input is not ‘valued’ as much as men’s. For Surjeet, her writings are her ‘voice’ in a society that renders women ‘voiceless’. She calls her personal blog ‘Voiceless’ to showcase her writings that challenge and critique patriarchal social structures for both their inhumanity and lack of vision.

As we have seen, she is a writer whose creative spirit embraces numerous genres: poetry, short stories, plays, reviews, editing, and translation. She says, ‘…often the subject dictates the form. Still poetry’s spontaneous burst of lyrical thought is closest to my heart.’ Poets who have inspired Surjeet are Punjabi poets Mohan Singh and Amrita Pritam, and Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Also, she feels, no one writes a short story better than Ajeet Cour (Kaur) whose stories of women’s lives are rooted in social realism. Rejecting romanticism herself, Surjeet’s writings are also based in the reality of women’s lives with the intention of empowering women to develop agency over our own lives.

Visit Surjeet’s personal blog for a complete listing of all her poems, short stories, dramas, translations, edited works, and plays.
surjeetkalsey.wordpress.com

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Mandeep Wirk Mandeep Wirk is a writer and social activist who also works as a visual artist, photographer and educator. Her writings have appeared in various publications in Lowermainland. Mandeep is working on a book of non-fiction that is ‘a memoir of sorts’, and she is working on a set of new paintings.
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Women Who Named the Unnamed
Pakistan’s & Local Women Heroes

Saturday, September 28, 2019
6 – 9 PM
Centre Stage
Surrey City Hall
13450 – 104 Avenue
Surrey, BC, Canada V3T 1V8
Phone: 604-591-4011

Buy your ticket online at this link:
tickets.surrey.ca
Tickets $25
Box Office : 604-501-5566

More information
Women-who-named-the-unnamed
In-gratitude-we-celebrate-our-women-heroes
View our objectives and goals.

We gratefully acknowledge
that we are on the unceded Coast Salish territories of
the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen,
Qayqayt, Tsawwassen, Musqueam,
Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

..