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The Toronto-based collective breaks down barriers for women in media and creative industries through mutual support and education
Like in many ethnic communities, social media helps South Asian women establish themselves professionally, but it often falls short when it comes to building communities.
This is why three South Asian women decided to start Didihood, which aims to connect South Asian women who work in media and creative industries to one another— both on social media and in real life.
Founders Arti Patel, Nikkjit Gill and Roohi Sahajpal met while studying journalism at Ryerson University. Patel, who works at GlobalNews, says they came up with the idea for Didihood six years ago. She was inspired to finally get the project off the ground after attending a panel last fall about networking for professional women.
Patel says she admires and takes inspiration from many other South Asian women on social media but have never reached out to them. She adds that while the South Asian community in Toronto is robust, it can be difficult for women in media and creative industries to connect with one another.
“For a lot of people, [they] might be the only South Asian in the newsroom,” she says. “It was important to us to have a space where people can just really openly talk to people and meet them.”
Didihood, which means “sisterhood,” focuses on fostering connections between South Asian women in Toronto through networking, mentorship and community building. Though the collective is still growing, the founders hope to one day have chapters in cities across Canada. They plan to start with Vancouver, where Sahajpal is based, by hosting a meet up there this summer.
While a growing number of South Asian women are taking jobs in media and creative industries, Patel says stigma and lack of support can make the going difficult.
“These are fields that are not really encouraged in the South Asian community and you have to really prove yourself [if you pursue them], especially going into journalism school or doing something like writing, or art or music,” says Patel. “I’m personally seeing a lot more South Asian women take up these spaces, and it’s great, [but] we need to see a lot more of it.”
Patel, Gill and Sahajpal hope that Didihood will do just that. Their plans for future expansion include developing a mentorship program for women trying to enter creative fields or beginning their careers, educational panels and skill-building workshops geared to university students. Didihood’s first official event in Toronto, a panel about representation of South Asian women in the media featuring Toronto-based panelists, is scheduled tentatively for June.
“The biggest thing with social media right now is there’s such a strong space for South Asian women specifically,” says Patel, pointing to South Asian artists and writers like Hatecopy, Babbuthepainter and Rupi Kaur, who use social media as a platform for their work and have strong internet followings.
Patel also called South Asian female journalists like Farah Nasser of GlobalNews and Pooja Handa of CP24 sources of personal inspiration. She says Didihood has already helped her and her colleagues connect face-to-face with people they have long admired online.
“It’s such a rich time [for content] right now and it’s so diverse,” says Patel. “It’s not just about being South Asian or brown or a woman of colour. These women are hitting all the notes of their fields, and we’re really excited to bring everyone together.”