30th Anniversary Conference with Exhibition
Wednesday 12 June 2019 – the Lord Provost’s speech below
(Main Council Chamber, City Chambers)
Chair Jones, Sikh Sanjog Trustees and Staff and Volunteers, Minister(s), MSPs, Councillors, Community Activists and Workers, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be here today, on behalf of the citizens of this great and historic city, to welcome you all to the beating heart of civic Edinburgh, here in the City Chambers to celebrate the work and achievements of Sikh Sanjog which has operated since 1989.
Reaching 30 years of continual operations is a key milestone for any organisation, but for a community project to have grown so substantially, from relatively humble beginnings, and which services the needs of highly vulnerable minority ethnic girls and women, is a remarkable accomplishment, and one which those involved, both passed and present, should be rightly highly proud.
While Edinburgh is an inclusive city, is a diverse city, is a city of partnership, is a city of engagement that puts our citizens at the heart of what we do, it remains the case that, against the backdrop of a successful economy and substantial employment, around 30% of residents continue to experience profound poverty and disadvantage.
In a city, which is a top-20 EU visitor destination, and ranked number one in the world for liveability, it remains a concern that so many of our fellow citizens, experience substantial challenges in their lives which prevent their attaining their outcomes.
For some specific groups of residents, additional barriers can exist, which require bespoke and sometimes intensive assistance in order to help deliver personal potential. Sikh Sanjog has done just that over the last three decades, building a positive and purposeful city-wide (and national) reputation for shaping support primarily around the needs of individual girls and women of Bhatra Sikh (pronounced ‘batra-seek’) and minority ethnic heritage, over the years their services have extended to women from all ethnic and Scottish communities unlocking potential and transforming lives.
I understand that “Sanjog”, means ‘linking’ in the Punjabi language, and demonstrates the core objectives of the organisation to be a bridge for; understanding and engaging with scottish society, assessing education and career possibilities, accessing one-to-one counselling services, and continued bespoke support to open-up new opportunities and potential.
In a complex city, a level of personal confidence and educational attainment are key to unlocking better life-chances, which can be transformative across generations. Sikh Sanjog’s efforts to unleash the personal potential for their clients, and their working in partnership with the city’s public, business, and third sectors, has helped deliver increased volumes of bespoke youth provision, high-skilled employment, and degree and post-graduate learning for minority ethnic girls and women across Edinburgh. Again, this is a substantial, and life-affirming contribution to our communities and one which is opening doors, that were previously closed, for the new generation of minority ethnic girls.
Alongside these achievements, as part of the City’s long-held sustainability agenda, and allied to the Scottish Government’s drive to grow social and community enterprise, in 2010 the Board installed Scotland’s first minority ethnic women’s social enterprise – The Punjabi Junction. At the time, this was ground-breaking, and even unheard of across Scotland, the café continues to provide traditional Punjabi home-cooked cuisine to the people of Edinburgh. The initiative also gives minority ethnic women training and employment opportunities, whilst learning valuable social and practical skills, improving their literacy, numeracy, communication, social and customer care skills, which are transferable and can readily be applied in the workplace. An additional benefit is that the women are interacting with people from all cultures. The Junction is now a cornerstone of Scotland’s leading centre for growing ethical trading, where over 230 social enterprises successfully operate in a range of markets in our city.
If that wasn’t enough, the café now operates an outside catering function, which has proven to be a huge success, with a range of corporate and occasion bookings. Many across the city, and many international visitors, as well as myself, will have noted with fondness, the delicious morsels made available as part of our flagship Edinburgh Mela festival of world music and dance.
Sikh Sanjog and its enterprises, are a blueprint for how community spirit and determination can grow from a seedling, to stand tall and proud, in making a substantial and tangible difference to the lives and life-outcomes for those most vulnerable in our diverse society.
In closing, on behalf of the citizens of Edinburgh, and the City of Edinburgh Council, I would wish to congratulate all of those involved, the Board, the staff, the volunteers, the partners and most of all, my sincerest congratulations to those of you who have made use of the project and maintained an involvement in order to put something back.
Please enjoy the evening, the fantastic exhibition and the traditional fayre on offer.”