Meet Taqdir Kaur Bhandal. She’s a Sikh-Punjabi femme health researcher, menstrual cycle educator, and social justice activist based on Coast Salish territory (aka Metro Vancouver). She’s currently pursuing her PhD at the University of British Columbia and ran for Vancouver city council in 2018.
My parents and extended family immigrated to Metro Van in the 1980s and worked in farms and canneries. I had a somewhat rocky childhood marked by lots of moving, parents divorcing, and gender-based violence. I’ve always been a nerd, and reading about the world through fiction and non-fiction supported me to be who I am now. I couldn’t have gotten here without all the amazing sisters, teachers, students, friends, and chosen family who have kept me a float all these years.
South Asian women living in Vancouver and Canada experience unique forms of privileges and oppressions. For example, unlike our Indigenous relations, we are relatively free to access our ancestral languages, foods, temples, clothing, and more. However, women in our communities may also face more pressure, stigma, and taboo around sexualities and body literacy. I aim to empower everyone who menstruates (or bleeds with the moon) to take charge of their health and wellbeing.
I do this through free monthly workshops delivered at the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective, and by conducting and publishing research. I also ran a social and environmental justice oriented campaign for Vancouver city council in 2018. I was hoping to be the first ever South Asian woman to have a seat at the (settler-colonial government) table.
I am safe. I am loved. I am a commitment to my unwavering self-worth.
I have to say that I love my work! I am passionate about maintaining a really good balance between “productive and paid” work, and the reproductive care work I do in my life (cleaning, cooking, dog care, self-care, elder care, spending time with friends, yoga, meditation, etc.). I am also currently working on a screenplay that will likely take me several years to write, and I’m enjoying the process.
I have the privilege of being able to travel quite a bit for work and pleasure, so you might find me at some new place in BC or the world! In 2018, I visited beautiful Udaipur, Chennai, Kochi, Mumbai, Lisbon, London, Halifax, Toronto, and Palm Springs. This year I’ll be going to Edmonton, Puerto Vallarta, Colorado Springs, Darjeeling, Mi’gmaq territories, and maybe more!
On weekends in Vancouver, I am usually getting my grocery refills at the Soap Dispensary, going for a walk in Trout Lake, or attending an event put on by one of our diverse ethnocultural communities downtown.
Working as a qualitative researcher gives me flexibility. Both my partner and I work from a home office, so we are able to share responsibility for all of the care work I mentioned above. We don’t observe the traditional “husband” and “wife” roles as a heterosexual couple. Instead we share the labour of cooking, cleaning, etc. Although I have to say that I’m the tidier one of us two so I do tend to spend a good hour of my day just getting our home in order!
I tune into the flow of the lunar cycle and all of Mother Nature to observe how my energy levels change over the course of my menstrual cycle. Leading up to the full moon, I schedule myself to be busier and more extroverted. When the new moon is approaching, I tend to stay in, sip herbal cha, and spend time reflecting.