Pink Ladoo and Publishing: A Quick Conversation with Raj Kaur Khaira by Avneet Bains
Lawyer and Activist Raj Kaur Khaira has written two books: Stories for South Asian Supergirls and The Night the Reindeer Saved Christmas, along with her activist work to fight for gender equality through The Pink Ladoo Project. I had a quick chat with her about how her fight for gender equality translates into her published work.
You are the founder of The Pink Ladoo Project as well as being a writer and lawyer. Can you tell us more about your journey to founding the campaign?
I am the oldest of three children – my sister and brother are ten and twelve years younger than me respectively. My parents never treated my sister and I differently for being girls, but it was a different story from the community and extended family. People reacted very badly when my sister was born by virtue of the fact that she was a girl and I grew up in a gender-biased community where men and women fulfilled 'traditional' South-Asian gender roles. Those who broke that mould were mocked or criticised – the double standard was rife.
The idea for the project first came to me when I was twelve. I was sitting at the kitchen table with my mom packing boxes of ladoo to give out for my brother, when I turned to her and said, “Someone should start a trend to mark the birth of a girl, maybe cupcakes or something.” The idea then resurfaced when people close to me started having daughters when I was working in the city. Together with the emphasis being placed on elevating women in the workplace recently, I started to wonder what types of negative messages might be thwarting women’s confidence and the women’s rights efforts. This was really the proverbial ‘light bulb moment’. I realised that the cultural campaign was as necessary as it had always been and there was no time like the present.
The Pink Ladoo isn’t a new idea. There is a film by the same name and people have sold Pink Ladoo in the past. We chose the Pink Ladoo instead of another sweet because it’s such a strong symbol. It’s a ladoo, so you know it’s for a celebration, and the colour pink tells you it’s a girl. We see it as the symbol of our protest against sexism and to be an effective symbol it has to deliver the message instantly. The Pink Ladoo Project is the first time it’s been done this way. We aren’t selling them, we don’t get any money from sales. We just wanted to encourage everyone to start a new trend and open up the conversation on gender equality in the process.
Tell us about your writing journey. What made you decide to write Stories for South Asian Supergirls?
I kept sharing stories about amazing South Asian women on Pink Ladoo’s social media dating back as early as 2015. There have been a lot of books coming out recently about inspiring women and I thought it was time I put one together for South Asian women. Through this book in particular, I wanted South Asian women to realise their power and to know that there are scores of outcomes that are possible for them that drastically differ to the mainstream media’s depiction of people of colour.
How did you go about choosing the fifty amazing women to feature? Did you find any choices challenging?
All the women featured in the book are ground-breaking in some way. They’re either the first in their fields or rule breakers. They’re subversive women who went against societal and cultural expectations to achieve what they did. It was really challenging to first select just fifty women. We had so many on our list. After that it was really challenging to do justice to them and fully capture their stories in just 250 words.
Your upcoming book is called The Night the Reindeer Saved Christmas. Can you tell us more about it in a sentence or two?
Only female reindeer keep their antlers in winter! The Night the Reindeer Saved Christmas is inspired by this little-known fact.
Stories for South Asian Supergirls
Stories for South Asian Supergirls highlights fifty South Asian women from Afghanistan to Pakistan, past to present through beautifully illustrated biographies by ten South Asian female artists. From remarkable figures such as Noor Inayat Khan to social media superstars like Lilly Singh, Khaira provides a voice to a group who have long been marginalised and underrepresented. With 100% of author proceeds from the sales of this book going to charities supporting women and children, this is a great introduction to these amazing South Asian supergirls indeed!
The Night the Reindeer Saved Christmas
When a disaster strikes on Christmas Eve, Santa Claus must find a way to deliver all his Christmas presents. To help solve the problem, Mrs Claus suggests that they ask the animals who live with them at the North Pole to help save the day… But who can help to fly Santa’s sleigh? A beautifully illustrated Christmas tale by Kasia Nowowiejska featuring a diverse array of characters including a South Asian Santa and a Black Mrs Claus, this is a perfect book with fun reindeer facts to add to your #TBR this holiday!
You can check out Raj’s amazing work out at www.pinkladoo.org