Traditionally in Punjabi households, and in a wider South Asian context, the birth of a boy is celebrated with sweets, typically ladoo: a ball of sweetness, usually made with flour and sugar.
However, if a girl is born, there is no designated sweet to celebrate their arrival.
Enter in Raj Khaira.
A British-born Sikh, raised in Canada, Khaira is the creator of the Pink Ladoo Project. Inspired by the negative reaction to her sister’s birth, particularly when contrasted with the reaction to the birth of her brother, in 2015 Khaira began her project to celebrate the birth of baby girls with a pink ladoo.
This may only be a small step, but it helps to meet the campaign’s broader aim of eradicating the sex based prejudices found originally in British Asian households. The campaign has since spread worldwide, to places with a large South Asian diaspora such as Canada and Australia. In taking this step, Khaira has helped start the conversation about this issue in the Punjabi and wider South Asian community.
It’s a conversation that needs to be had. The issue of sex based oppression is overwhelming in areas like the Punjab, which has one of the highest female foeticide rates in India, with a staggering 892 girls born in comparison to every 1000 boys. This is despite the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism. He stated that men and women are equal and established equality of the sexes as a fundamental principle of Sikhism.
Whilst practices of female foeticide may not be so common in the diasporic communities, the idea of baby girls as unwelcome and a burden persists.
Therefore, it is important that women like Khaira rise up and challenge the patriarchal norms of society, proving that women, especially South Asian women who are often portrayed as passive, can and are able to make positive changes.
By turning South Asian cultural expectations on its head, Khaira has not only inspired numerous Asian women and men to celebrate the birth of their daughters, but also started a desperately needed conversation on a very sensitive topic.
Pink Ladoo Project is full of ordinary people’s stories who have experienced a similar story to Raj Khaira.
Isha Sohal is a third year History student at King’s College, London