Diwali: a triumph of light over darkness – message from Gingerbread trustee Jasmin

Posted 13 November 2020

To everyone celebrating Diwali – especially those from single parent families – Gingerbread and our trustees wish you peace, prosperity, happiness and harmony during this special time.

This weekend, millions of Hindu, Sikh and Jain families – and this will include many single parent families, in the UK and globally – will be celebrating Diwali, the five-day festival of lights in celebration of Rama’s victory over the evil King Ravana.

It is an auspicious time and regarded as a festival of joy, of new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. Families, including single parent families, will be lighting diyas in their homes, just like Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer did in Downing St. This is the first time this has happened in British history and was a great effort towards making the best of it, despite being in lockdown.

The diya lamps are lit to welcome into the coming year the Goddess Laxmi, who is believed to bring wealth, and Ganesh, the god representing good fortune and wisdom. Following a year marred by Coronavirus, we could all do with good fortune and wealth of all kinds! The pandemic has created challenges and nightmares that many could only have envisaged seeing in science fiction films and programmes, like Doctor Who. We know many of those challenges have been particularly hard for single parent families, who have been disproportionately impacted by the financial, practical and emotional fall-out from the crisis.

For many, Diwali is all about the coming together of communities (immediate and extended family, neighbours, colleagues…everyone!) to celebrate this joyful time together. But this year, the festivities will be bittersweet, as families up and down the country will be in lockdown, exchanging celebrations with each other via video calls or alone, and unable to connect physically like they have done in the past.

Much has been said about people missing Christmas because of the pandemic. However, it’s not only Christmas Day at stake for families: for Hindu families, Diwali has been hijacked by the challenges of COVID-19, as was Eid ul Fitr for Muslim families.

The second lockdown has created more challenges for many vulnerable people and especially single parent families. While the first lockdown came as a big surprise and many single parent families experienced struggle when it came to coping with the demands of being kept in, juggling work and having children off school, the second lockdown may be a little too much for some of our families. This is especially as finances are being stretched, people are losing jobs, organisations and businesses are closing at an alarming rate and, to add to it, tensions in the family home may increase. It has been reported that domestic violence rates have gone up – not just in the UK but also globally, according to UN figures.

Being a single parent can still be a stigma in the West but in other communities – such as the Asian, African, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities – the stigma can be much worse.  Festivals such as Diwali, Eid or Christmas can often highlight the loneliness, helplessness and financial, emotional and social difficulties faced by single parents and their children.

So, if you are a single parent and/or a Hindu, Sikh or Jain single parent struggling to find some light during these somewhat dark times, I would urge you reach out to Gingerbread, the charity for all single parents, where you can access support from expert advisers through Gingerbread’s single parent helpline or connect with other single parents through our network of single parent friendship groups and online forum. If you know single parents who are struggling, please tell them about Gingerbread.

Being a single parent is not means-tested and, as a single parent myself, I know that it isn’t just about financial poverty but emotional poverty, too. You can suffer from much stigma, isolation and loneliness and COVID-19 has only amplified these challenges.

This leads me, finally, to a heartfelt request: please support the vital work that Gingerbread does. Their support is needed now more than ever to help single parent families who may be struggling to cope. With your support, Gingerbread can reach more single parent families and help them to triumph over these dark times.

You can support Gingerbread’s vital work by donating at www.gingerbread.org.uk/donate. Every penny and every pound makes a difference! So, go on – dig deep and make a difference to those who need it.

Jasmin Choudry Gingerbread Trustee

Jasmin is a trustee at Gingerbread and a single parent. She is passionate about improving the lives of single parents, young people and their families. She is a former deputy headteacher and advises on various public sector panels while currently working as a freelance education consultant.

If you would like to share your single parent story with our single parent community get in touch with us here.

One thought on “Diwali: a triumph of light over darkness – message from Gingerbread trustee Jasmin

  1. Brilliant message, I will share with my Gingerbread group today. Thank you Jasmin and well done! Happy Diwali to all and sending some extra love to the single parent families celebrating this weekend.

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