From taking the first solo flight in an Avro for the Indian Air Force to creating films that break stereotypes. Here’s a compilation of some amazing and inspiring Sikh women who started out as ordinary women and grew up to become extraordinary path breakers.
Gagandeep Kang, Vaccinologist & Scientist
When Gagandeep Kang decided to be a doctor she had no idea she would be changing lives of little children. Kang, who hails from Jalandhar in Punjab, is now one of the world’s most well regarded experts on vaccines. She became the first Indian to be inducted as a Fellow in the Royal Society in 2019 in its history of 359 years.
Kang has been a voice of reason and credibility during India’s COVID crises, guiding many to understand their medical conditions and vaccine impact better.
The filmmaker made it big with her film Bend It Like Beckham. At the time we all were still mustering courage to ask such questions, Chadha asks her mom as a kid, “Why do women do all the work in the kitchen, why do men just sit and chat?”
These questions conditioned Chadha to really rethink how entertaining films could be if they actually came with a message. And so she set course to make films that would try to beat stereotypes and raise some questions.
Chadha belongs to Southhall in London and is married to a Japanese.
“My films do have a big following among young girls, and I want to instill confidence in them, a sense of self-appreciation,” she has said about her movies.
She is often referred to as the nightingale of Punjab. Surinder Kaur started her career in the 1940s as a radio show host for children. Her songs resonated with many and she soon became popular. But back then, stereotypical thinking forced society to question why women needed to sing for public. Nothing stopped Kaur from writing and singing folk songs. ‘Lok sangeet’ was her favourite and she has left behind a long list of popular songs heard at traditional functions that keep Punjabi culture alive.
Harita Kaur Deol
One of the first seven cadets to be inducted into the Indian Air Force as part of its Short Service Commission Officers, Harita always dreamt of being part of the forces. Born in 1971, she was from Chandigarh. In 1994, she became the first Indian woman to fly an Avro aeroplane at 10,000 feet as a female solo pilot of the Indian Air Force. She was among the pioneers who started a debate about how women can truly be part of the forces and aviation in India.
An energetic content creator and entertainer, Singh is one of India’s most prominent faces in United States of America. Born to Punjabi immigrants she has pushed boundaries and become an online sensation among youth. Singh is the host of the late night show called A Little Late with Lilly Singh. She said this and fired many imaginations among young girls, “Marriage cannot be the optimal achievement of my life.”
Palbinder Kaur Shergill
An Indian-origin Sikh became the first turbaned woman to hold a chair in the judiciary in Canada, the World Sikh Organisation (WSO) of Canada. Human rights advocate Palbinder Kaur Shergill has been appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in New Westminster.
Shergill was just 4 years old when she migrated from Punjab to Canada with her family.
Shergill has been an active worker in helping shape human rights and religious accommodation law in Canada through her pro bono work as General Legal Counsel for the World Sikh Organisation of Canada. Her prominence in the field earned her the recent position.