Sandeep Gill was born and raised in the beautiful Okanagan Valley. After pursuing a career in Social Work, she recognized the depths of silence and the shame culture plaguing the South Asian community today. She founded She Writes HerStory to raise awareness about the systematic cultural oppression faced by South Asian women and to empower women to reclaim their lives by owning their narratives. This platform engages women through storytelling and encourages women to speak up about their own experiences. Sandeep is committed to breaking down the taboo topics affected by so many women, such as mental health, sexual abuse, domestic violence and much more. As the She Writes HerStory community grows, Sandeep is creating innovative ways to serve the needs of her audience. She is working on a book as well as hosting community events focused on celebrating women’s voices.
I grew up in a large joint family, and with so many people under one roof, I often found myself shy and introverted. I’ve always been invested in supporting social change initiatives; I spent my high school years volunteering for a number of organizations. I entered an ambassador pageant at the age of sixteen, and I became the first South Asian girl to win the title of Youth Ambassador. During that year of attending functions across BC, I gained confidence in public speaking, owning my space and for the first time I truly believed that I, a brown skinned girl was ‘good enough’.
I went on to pursue my degree in Social Work, while working in the field of child protection, I recognized how much the South Asian community was focused on silencing matters. Rather than getting the help needed, families often tried to brush issues such as domestic violence, and addiction under the rug. I was having a difficult time in engaging our community, and eventually I gave up. I ended up changing careers and moving to Peru, but there was something missing for me there, I couldn’t stay idle. I knew I had to somehow become involved in our community again, although at the time, I didn’t know what it would look like.
She Writes HerStory was initially created on Instagram as a means to share my writing, mostly poetry. It has since evolved into something so much bigger and deeper, and it continues to evolve into a platform for women to speak up about their experiences, recognize that they are not alone and to support one another.
I write about/share the kind of topics I know, are often suppressed, the kinds of things families will say, “don’t tell anyone”. But I believe we need to shift that mindset and realize by living in a place of silence and shame we continue to perpetuate matters that will simply not go away, secondly in order to create a positive change, we need to address the issues that exist.
The advice I would give women is to take action. Every single one of us has infinite power to create, engage and inspire. If you love to write, I would recommend that you begin by sharing your work in public spaces. Although it is not easy to put your most intimate words out into the world, it is extremely liberating as more often than not you will realize you are not alone.
She Writes HerStory is founded upon empowering South Asian women and forming a sisterhood. We need to create safe physical and virtual spaces for our stories to be told. Recently I shared The Unwanted Proposal, a true story of a woman who was pressured into an arranged marriage. How many of us have come to think of this as a ‘normal’ tradition in our community, but have we ever stopped to discuss the emotional process behind all of it? What amazed me after releasing this story was the number of women from around the world who were deeply impacted by this woman’s journey…somehow we all recognized parts of her within each of us.
Aside from my writing, I’ve begun organizing community events for South Asian women. In November we hosted our first event, A Celebration of Women’s Voices. It was an inspiring evening of 15 spoken word performances focused around the woman’s experience, with topics ranging from mental health, trauma associated with sexual assault, and highlighting the cultural suppression of South Asian women. We sold out days before the event, which tells me that there is not only a need for more transparency and discussion, but also that people are ready for it. There are more events in the works including panel discussions, workshops and larger spoken word celebrations.
You only live once… just do it.
I am quite the homebody. I often spend my downtime relaxing with my family or nestled with a book in a coffee shop. I also work in the Social Work field, so there is not a lot of ‘off’ time.
To be completely honest, I don’t think I have mastered such a balance yet. I am learning to not feel guilt over taking a weekend off. I am however very fortunate that I have a supportive and understanding family. I’ve recently gotten back into hot yoga, which has been key for my stress release.
Photography provided by: Baneet Braich Photography, One Up Design, Sajiography