25 year celebration
25 years ago, in the kitchen of an office block in Edinburgh, you would have found a group of Sikh women. That was the start of Sikh Sanjog…
We knew, being Sikh women, that there was always an invisible internal barrier that held us back. That barrier stopped us feeling able to integrate into the community, to feel like we were able to gain a valuable education, or follow a career. Our aim was to empower women to see past these barriers. For them to gain the self-confidence they needed to become valued members of the community, and to realise their potential to enhance their own lives.
Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to meet many wonderful women. Some of whom we’ve supported since childhood, right up to starting their first day of work, and after!
Society and culture is ever evolving, and so is Sikh Sanjog. We will always be one step ahead to ensure that the services and support we offer is always relevant and useful. Always leading, but always learning too!
The support we’ve had from fundraisers and the Edinburgh community has always been very strong, we couldn’t have done it otherwise. We are also lucky enough to have a strong and passionate workforce, each of whom are dedicated to bring about positive social change.
25 amazing years have passed, and I’m truly proud of what we’ve achieved. With more and more women from all ethnicities using our service, I know that the momentum will carry us forward for another 25!
THE FIRST SIKH GURU
Guru Nanak was born in India in 1469. India was experiencing many difficulties at this time and it’s people were desperate for saviour. Guru Nanak set an example to Indian people and setting simple rules of conduct and leading by example, he brought them to a life of fulfillment and meaning.
Nanak was born on 15 April 1469. His father was the local patwari (accountant) for crop revenue in a small village called Talwandi. It has been reported that from a young age, Guru Nanak showed interests in divine subjects and symbolism. Other childhood accounts refer to strange and miraculous events happening around the young Nanak. Nanak’s sister Bibi Nanaki realised that her brother had divine qualities and encouraged him to study and travel. At the age of 30 that Nanak had a vision. After failing to return from washing himself one day, the townspeople found his clothes on the bank of a local stream, they thought that he had drowned. Nanak turned up 3 days later, but it was the next day before he spoke.
It was from this revelation that, Nanak is described as a Guru. Sikhism was born between 1499 and 1524, Guru Nanak embarked on many Divine Missions. He walked thousands of kilometers, most by foot. He covered vast areas including Bengal, Assam, Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Tibet, Baghdad and Mecca. He believed in one God, one brotherhood and universal love. It was during these Missions that he spread his message of peace, compassion, righteousness and truth. The poorest people of India, especially women, were being oppressed. There was no justice and no sympathy, people were suffering at the hands of the powerful and rich rulers. These rulers were exercising their powers in the cruellest of ways. Guru Nanak believed that people had the right to freedom so much that he spoke out against these rulers and forced them to change their ways.
For the first time in the history of mankind, Guru Nanak challenged the society of his time, which failed to give equal status to women. He tried to lift women from the depths of degradation to the height of glory by granting them the rights and privileges already enjoyed by men. Guru Nanak reminded mankind all over the world about the greatness of women. The Sikh Gurus gave women equal status and so they gained social equality and religious freedom. Guru Amardas deputised some women for missionary work. Guru Har Gobind called women the conscience of man.
The teachings of Guru Nanak the founder of Sikhism are as relevant today as they were in the 15th century when he initiated this spiritual way of life for his followers.
Sikhs believe that their way of life enlightens people. It asks people to look at themselves as individuals and equals and to be tolerant of other behaviour and practices whether they are religious or otherwise. Sikhs are encouraged not to be judgemental of others because of their religious preferences. They believe that God is not interested in labels i.e Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Jew etc. He is interested in how we participate within our daily living and how we behave towards our fellow human beings.
This message was carried forward and developed by each of the 9 Gurus who followed after his death in 1539. A year before his passing, Guru Nanak chose Bhai Lehna to be his successor. He renamed him Guru Angad which means ’one’s very own’ or ‘part of you’. Our work at Sikh Sanjog does not promote religion but we do respect the cultural aspects that can be informed by the religion to allow individuals to be positive about their Sikh identity and to participate as full members of a diverse society.
“From woman is our birth, in the woman’s womb we are shaped, to the woman we are wedded. The woman is our friend and from woman is the family born. If one woman dies, a man seeks another. Through woman are the bonds of the world. Woman gives birth to the kings”
“There is neither Hindu nor Mussulman (Muslim) so whose path shall I follow? I shall follow God’s path. God is neither Hindu nor Mussulman and the path which I follow is God’s.”
BLACK PRINCE OF PERTHSHIRE
Sikh links with Scotland and the Commonwealth date back to the 19th Century, after the Anglo-Sikh war and the invasion of the Punjab by the British in 1849
Born in Lahore in 1838, Duleep Singh was son of the Maharajah Ranjit Singh of the Punjab who died one year after his birth in 1839. The years that followed his father’s death saw two bitter wars erupt in India. The British eventually forced the Sikhs to succumb and in 1854 the young Maharaja, now 15, was removed from India altogether and sent into exile in England for fear of further unrest. The young prince was well received in Royal circles often frequenting the court of Queen Victoria. She and her husband, Prince Albert though very highly of the young Maharaja. He was placed under the guardianship of Sir John Spencer Login a Scottish naval surgeon and member of the East Indian Company who housed him in Castle Menzies in Perthshire, Scotland. In adulthood, the Maharaja soon became known for his lavish lifestyle, shooting parties, and a love of dressing in Highland costume nickname the “Black Prince of Perthshire”. This is why he’s commonly regarded as the first Sikh settler in Scotland. In the preceding years many battles were lost and won in the time of the British Raj in India. Finally in 1947 India gained her Independence. Subsequently, ‘The Partition of India’ took place and the Sikh’s who originated from the northern area of Punjab became refugees as the state of Pakistan was declared. This was when the migration of Sikhs to the United Kingdom increased. As far back as the late 1930’s many Sikh families started to settle in Scotland. The women brought with them the culture and traditions of their village family life and implanted it here.
Sikh Sanjog was founded by the first generation of British born Sikh women. At the time, many felt restricted by invisible internal barriers that prevented us from accessing what our new Scottish community had to offer. In 1989 a group of us came together to create something that would belong to us, something that would understand our needs, and would fulfil our hopes and dreams. We are inherently proud of our heritage and wanted to keep the Sikh culture, traditions and our Sikh Ethos of Equality for women alive.
Encouraging women from the Sikh community to realise their potential, to reach out to their communities and contribute positively to them. Over the years there has been a blending of Scottish and Sikh Culture through dress and food we have a Sikh tartan (inset) and our Famous Haggis Pakoras are served at our Social Enterprise Café!
Over the past 25 years we have and we will continue to educate and inform the wider community of the Sikh way of life and culture.
THE WORK WE DO
Sikh Sanjog believe working in partnership with other voluntary and statutory organisations is an effective means of enabling Sikh, and other ethnically and culturally diverse women and their families, to access integrated services and employment.
We continue to research innovative ways to offer new services and meet new needs in a cost effective way. Where others are already equipped to provide what is required, we will outsource services such as training. Our priority is to identify needs and then deliver tailored programmes to meet them, through the best possible service providers.
We are committed to retaining our identity and sensitivity to our local community, in order to encourage and foster integration and inclusion within our broader society. Our stakeholders will view our organisation as providing a crucial link to vital mainstream services. We aim to deliver our services in sensitive and pro-active ways that will celebrate different cultures, not challenge them. In pursuit of our goals, we treat stakeholders, users and the community with the utmost respect. We endeavour to provide British society with an educated insight into the Sikh way of life while also protecting the identities of our users.
Sikh Sanjog aspire to maintain our reputation in the voluntary, social and educational sectors for developing and delivering effective and confidential services dedicated to the promotion of Sikh cultural values within the broader Scottish society.
Services we provide:
- Training, personal development and employability facilitation
- Inclusive activities for children and accreditation based positive outcomes for young people
- Literacy coaching
- Training and coaching in IT and computer use for everyday life
- Social and wellbeing support for young women from settled migrant communities, and others new to the community and those with young families
- Health and wellbeing activities for over 50’s women
- Advice and counselling via ‘drop in’ centre
- Proactive in reaching out to new members of the community who could benefit from these services
- Extension of the services to other ethnically and culturally diverse groups with similar needs
- Provision of specialist advice/consultation to statutory organisations e.g. Police, NHS, Social Services, Edinburgh Council
Sikh Sanjog’s Social Enterprise
We are immensely proud of our community Café, Punjabi Junction. Based on Edinburgh’s longest street, Leith Walk. It has become the heart of the organisation.
Many local people and businesses drop by the café regularly to pick up a curry, request outside catering for events, to sit and enjoy the atmosphere, or even join us for some cookery classes, which have proved to be a massive success!
Founded in 2010, the café has provided traditional Punjabi home cooked cuisine to the people of Edinburgh, whilst also giving Minority Ethnic [ME] women training and employment opportunities. The women who work at Punjabi Junction, learn valuable social and practical skills that can be applied in any workplace. Covering literacy, numeracy, communication, social and customer care skills, the training the women are given covers a lot of bases whilst working with the public reinforces social inclusion.
Our cookery classes have been a great way to welcome the community and give them a taste of Punjabi culture. People from all ethnicities and backgrounds come into the café and spend time learning about the spices and methods used to make delicious hearty food. This part of the enterprise is brilliant for us, as the women are integrating with people from all cultures. Being able to pass on their knowledge of cooking, gives a great sense of self worth.
The outside catering has proved to be a huge success. We regularly take bookings from large corporate conferences, to weddings, and festivals. Most notable for us is the Edinburgh Mela, Scotland’s biggest and best festival of world music and dance. We have provided catering to them every year since Punjabi Junction was founded, and it is a real honour for us to be a part of such a culturally aware festival. Although fundamentally the basis of our menu is Punjabi cuisine, for outside catering we also offer European dishes. Curry Friday at Punjabi Junction offers our amazing curry delivery service to office
workers in the city who are looking to end their working week with a punch!
25th July 2013 our Social Enterprise Cafe, previously known as Punjab’n De Rasoi was re-launched with new branding and a new name - Punjabi Junction! The layout was changed to maximise seating and to facilitate good customer service, we’ve got a great mural on the wall showing the spice trail of India and the spices we use in our cooking. We had steadily been gaining momentum with the various services we offered and seen an increase in the amount of visitors we were getting into the café. The café was styled to recreate the feeling of an old Indian Train. That along with the new name ‘Punjabi Junction’ has helped to earn our place as a respected and authentic business within the community.
We’ve been featured on a number of cookery shows on television, giving us great publicity for the café. Celebrity Chef’s Madhur Jaffery used the Punjabi Junction kitchen in the filming for her show Curry Nation. She also included our recipes in her latest cookery book, Curry Nation! The Incredible Spice Men, featuring Tony Singh and Cyrus Todiwala, included the café in a feature that they did about Edinburgh.
Paul Hollywood’s team took over the cafe for a day to record an episode of ‘Pies & Puds’. He was recorded sampling three of our best meals and he chose to base a pie on our unique fish curry. It was great to see how our traditional Sikh recipe could be fused with a traditional British recipe to make a new delicious savoury treat.
Without the support and dedication of our great team, we’d have been unable to start such a wonderful enterprise. Not only does it give Sikh women an outlet, it gives them the opportunity to better themselves and contribute into the community. Quite aside from all that, it serves up delicious food and provides vital funds right back into the heart of Sikh Sanjog which enables us to continue our important work.
Punjabi Junction, 122-124 Leith Walk, Edinburgh, EH6 5DT. www.punjabijunction.org
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT TEAM
HEALTH & WELLBEING GROUP
Our ‘Health and Wellbeing’ group is one of the most successful groups and the ladies all enjoy it greatly. The group gives the ladies the opportunity to socialise
and exercise together through walking, tai chi, yoga and ballet. The group also gives the ladies the chance to learn about a variety of issues that can affect women such as depression, domestic violence, diabetes, cancer, heart disease etc. At the end of each programme the ladies are treated to a much-anticipated outing.
Our ladies love getting out and about and we love to create opportunities for them to experience new places and activities. The Community Development team have organised many outings to places like M&D’s Theme Park, Blair Drummond Safari Park, Edinburgh’s Botanic Gardens, fishing at East Linton, and even a weekend exploring Dublin! Our excursions are extremely popular, they offer ladies and their families the chance to get together and visit places and do things that they may have otherwise never had the opportunity to do.
LEARNING TO SEW
We had so many ladies interested in learning to make their own traditional Punjabi suits, that we decided to start sewing classes. They have proved to be very popular, so popular in fact that we’ve had to open a waiting list! Ladies of all levels and ladies of all ages have been attending the class to learn dressmaking
techniques. We are now in the process of organising our second fashion show so that our ladies can show off the fabulous outfits they are designing and creating themselves. We might have the next Vivienne Westwood in our midst!
Sikh sanjog youth provision provides a unique, specialist service by way of a variety of quality opportunities for young people in response to educational, recreational, cultural and social needs, recognising the potential for life-long learning, and social and economic inclusion.
We aim to create a portfolio of support for ethically and culturally diverse young people and families. The objective is for them to feel safe to explore their choices and to gain confidence to speak up for themselves, to gain respect and avoid negative discrimination. Our work highlights many developmental themes, inclusion, personal development, citizenship, health and wellbeing and equal opportunities. The Youth Provision ensure that all of our programmes are structured around the Government’s agendas and policies, including ‘Getting it right For Every Child’ and the ‘Curriculum for Excellence’. The welfare of our children is always our starting point.
We are extremely proud of our partnership with secondary schools and The Duke of Edinburgh. These collaborations provide a gateway for us to engage with hard to reach young people in Edinburgh who may not be accessing extra curricular activities due to cultural differences. The nationally recognised awards, together with developing experiences and trusting relationships are beneficial through transitional periods of their lives.
DUKE OF EDINBURGH INCLUSION PROJECT
Currently, in our 25th year, we are working closely with 5 Edinburgh secondary schools. Our practice ensures that young people who are at risk of isolation are achieving, integrating and reaching a positive destination.
Our wonderful 2 year Heritage Project has proved to be a huge success, with 46 girls across 5 schools participating on a weekly basis. Our Youth Provision’s ethics and principles are built around the belief that all young people have the right to have their voices heard in matters that are important to them. We aim to unlock their potential and give them the confidence they need to stand up and be heard.
Our sessions offer a trusting environment to explore individual responsibilities, leadership and targeted developmental skills that will enhance their lives and have a positive impact on their choices when leaving school.
Our vision is to mainstream our unique service to ensure sustainability for vulnerable hard to reach girls in schools.
Our weekly Junior Group is for boys and girls aged 5 - 11. Our inclusive sessions aim to balance fun and education with issue based workshops, world events and celebration discussions. We also deliver a Punjabi & Gurmukhi class where young people can learn language and build their confidence in reading and writing Punjabi.
Many external organisations look to us to provide support to vulnerable individuals from diverse backgrounds. We receive referrals for young people who are in need of one-to-one specialist care.
Our advocacy experience and skills facilitate positive change, signposting when necessary. We pride ourselves on our inclusive nature, and our team and service welcome individuals from all ethnicities.
We are passionate about providing a unique service to Scotland’s socially excluded young people. We have seen the impact our services have made through making positive difference in lives, shaping services and informing practice.
The Youth Work Provision strives for innovatory practice, promoting equality and inclusion, delivering targeted projects. that fulfil young people’s potential for learning.
CONFIDENCE IN PERFORMANCE
“The group gives me so much to look forward to, I love how the staff understand my needs and support me when thinking about what I want to do when I leave school” - Kismet Singh
“ I love how I can now taLk In front of others, before, I was so shy, but now I can perform and speak In front of an audience, I love the team too, they are aLways helping me” - JantIp Choonangrang
Useful Links for all things Sikh
Sikh Sanjog is proud to have links with the following organisations in Edinburgh who also provide services to our culturally diverse community:
MULTI CULTURAL FAMILY BASE
DR BELL’S FAMILY CENTRE
MINORITY ETHNIC CARERS OF OLDER PEOPLE PROJECT
SHAKTI WOMAN’S AID
Call us on:
0131 553 4737
Write to us at:
130/12 Leith Walk
Office opening hours:
Mon - Fri: 10am - 4:30pm