On June 9, 2017, history was made when Preet Kaur Gill was elected as the first female Sikh MP in the UK Parliament. Gill, is a councillor representing the St. Paul’s Ward, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough. Though a quarter of Sandwell’s population consists of Sikhs, she is the only Sikh woman councillor out of 72. In December 2012, Gill was elected as councillor for the Labour Party. During the general election, she won over 24,000 votes, far ahead of her opponent, Caroline Squire.
Prior to the election, Gill commented on the lack of Sikh MPs, saying, “The fact that we don’t have any Sikh MPs is quite shocking in a way, when you think about how long Sikhs have been here and their contribution, but that puts a bit of responsibility on the Sikh community as well, in terms of how they are pushing their young people to get involved and engaged in politics.”
The lack of Sikh MPs comes from a variety of factors, one of which Gill believes is the way Sikh children are raised. The importance of encouraging young people to be involved in politics is clear in the lack of Sikh representation in government, and the encouragement is especially lacking among Sikh children and among young girls.
Gill believes that her own passion for politics was inspired by her father, who worked tirelessly for their local community. She said, “He encouraged me to ‘make a difference’ and to get the new generation to take on the mantle of serving their local community for a better Britain.”
Gill attended the University of East London and holds a first class honour’s degree in Sociology and Social Work. In order to research these topics, she worked in India studying children living in the streets and working with UNICEF, among other organizations.
Gill is also a Cabinet Member at Sandwell Council, which is made up of the Leader and seven Cabinet Members, each with a specific portfolio, or area of responsibility. Gill’s portfolio is Public Health and Protection. She is also the Mental Health Champion for the council. The Cabinet is responsible for making recommendations to the Council about its policy direction.
Along with her Council duties, Gill is a member of the Spring Housing Board, which aims to return to the original ethos of the housing association movement and work specifically with those most in need of housing. She is also an active campaigner for local and national matters, particularly those pertaining to human rights issues. These issues include better Sikh, BAME, and female representation in public life, which she speaks regularly about at events and to the press.
Gill’s election is a huge step for Sikh women, and the work she is doing will ensure that more women will have the same opportunities and more. The presence of women in politics is so important for young girls to see so that they can have the courage to work towards their own goals, no matter what those goals may be.
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