In this clip, Raminder describes how Canada showed her how unequal women's lives can be. She now works to support women, and help create better lives for them.
I’m Raminder Dosanjh. I was born in the village called Majitha in Punjab, India. I spent most of my childhood and teenage years hopping from one town to another, following my father’s movements in the Indian army, and immigrated to Canada at the age of twenty-four in 1970. I received my Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Education degree prior to my arrival in Canada, but finding a job in Canada was not easy because my degrees from India were not recognized by the school boards here. When I applied for a teacher’s aid position, the same school board rejected my application on the grounds that my degrees over-qualified me. Fortunately, with some hard work and adept guidance from some of my wonderful Canadian friends that I had met in my first few months in Vancouver, within a year I landed a job as an English as a second language instructor at a Vancouver community college, from which I retired last year.
The inequities of the Indian society, especially for the poor and for the women, were all around me during my formative years as I grew up in India. Ironically, it was in the more egalitarian – a more just society of Canada – that I became aware of the need for drastic changes in women’s lives globally. My volunteer work in my community and the schools made me aware of the plight of the Canadian women in general, and the immigrant women in particular. There was a noticeable lack of participation by women in community affairs in the south Asian community. The discrepancy between the involvement of women and men was very obvious. I met a lot of men through the community activities, but met their wives only at dinners or receptions. Once at a public meeting on racism, I was appalled to find only seven women in a crowd of about five hundred. Some very tragic incidents in the community made me aware of the isolation, the exploitation and suffering, many women faced in their lives, both at home and outside. I felt something had to be done, and I decided to get involved. In 1973, with the help of some friends, we established the India Mahila [women’s] Association – a grassroots south Asian women’s organization – to provide the much-needed support, and an organized voice for the south Asian Canadian women. Last November, we celebrated our thirtieth anniversary of working in the community as volunteers.
Over the years, we’ve faced various challenges. I was involved in organizing against the marketing campaign of a U.S.-based physician, aimed at the Indo-Canadian community in Vancouver. He was promoting a controversial ultrasound technique that supposedly determined the sex of a fetus as early as twelve to fourteen weeks after conception. My work on women’s issues in my own community sparked my interest in networking with other women’s organizations at the local, provincial, and national levels. I was part of the steering committee that established the organization known as the Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of British Columbia, and also served on the national board of the organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada as the British Columbia delegate, and the national vice president of the organization.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to raise three young men, and my marriage of thirty-two years has survived all the trials and tribulations of a busy and active family life.