Student campaign targets gender killings

Grade 12 students show off the merchandise they are selling to fundraise for GirlKind, an Abbotsford organization focused on raising awareness about gendercide. | Photo by Florence Hwang

Grade 12 students show off the merchandise they are selling to fundraise for GirlKind, an Abbotsford organization focused on raising awareness about gendercide. | Photo by Florence Hwang

In David Thompson Second School’s auditorium, students quietly watch a film about gendercide. But they aren’t quiet for long. The energetic high school students cheer boisterously as three of their classmates urge them to help raise money for their cause, GirlKind, an organization based out of Abbotsford. This fundraiser event is part of “Next Generation,” a project focused on South Asian issues and how Canadian youth can engage in these issues.

Students also participate in a community service project. This project encourages students to work together for a specific cause relevant to South Asia. David Thompson students chose to focus on gendercide, a practice to eliminate female babies because they male babies are preferred in certain cultures.

Project associate Dr. Summer Pervez was impressed with the student’s enthusiasm about this serious issue.

“Gendercide is something you think only happens in China and India but it happens in Canada,” says Pervez, who knows women who have stories about being told they were not wanted because they were female.

Student-driven engagement

When Grade 10 David Thompson Secondary School student Simran Kalkat heard about an opportunity to learn about South Asian issues, she quickly signed up. Simran, along with other Vancouver high school students, are proving they can make an impact through Mosaic Institute’s “Next Generation” project.

“As I started to learn about the topic, I wanted to make a change. I was the first to volunteer to be a leader,” says Simran, who heard about Mosaic Institute’s “Next Generation” project from her teacher Mr. Grewal.

Simran’s sister Sharni Kalkat, a Grade 12 student, also joined the project.

“It’s pretty sad and depressing to know that this [gendercide] is happening in this country,” says Sharni.

“It’s a good cause. We’re here to make a change, not to make the same mistakes,” says Sharni.

After the four-month project, students at David Thompson raised $250 by selling t-shirts and Belgium chocolate bars.

How “Next Generation” began

In 2011, the South Asian Canadian Global Citizenship Project began in Ontario, including the Peel district. It then took place in York Region and Toronto.

In 2012, the South Asian Canadian Global Citizenship Project took home the Canadian Race Relations Foundation Award of Excellence in the Community Category. Organizers say the goal of this project is to help young Canadians of South Asian background to better understand their role their own communities.

“Next Generation” is a series of four workshops held over four months. It is the first time this project has been held in Vancouver. Participating high schools include David Thompson, Sir Winston Churchill and John Oliver. There were 150 students who took part in the

On Feb. 1, 2014, the first session, there were special guests involved, including [special guests included] former premier of British Columbia Ujjal Dosanjh. He shared about his commitment to promote justice and equality both here in Canada and abroad in India, his native country.

According to the Mosaic blog, students could have chosen from 20 workshops related to being a Canadian of South Asian background, including learning about historic roles Canadians of South Asians played in developing Canada and talking about inter-community prejudices and how to best overcome them.

“We thought it would be ideal to come to Vancouver because of the substantial South Asian community. What’s surprising is there are so many non-South Asian community. About 40 per cent are East Asian,” says project manager Gina Csanya-Robah.

Pervez and Csanyi-Robah say they would like to see the program continue to grow, possibly Surrey and Calgary, depending on available funds.

“This is my message to everyone – when you have children, please tell them what’s happening [gendercide] so they can prevent it from happening. They should be happy to have girls,” says Simran.