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South Asian women breaking barriers: Niki Sharma

Monica Sethi Darpan, 21 Mar, 2023
  • South Asian women breaking barriers: Niki Sharma

"Being a woman means showing up with compassion and empathy and being strong while you're doing it. There's something about female power that's different. It comes from another place, and it's still powerful."- Niki Sharma, Attorney General of British Columbia

On December 7th, 2022, Niki Sharma was appointed the Attorney General of British Columbia, the first woman of colour to hold this position across provinces in Canada. As someone who has been a part of the justice system for almost two decades, she understands it can work for or against the people. The realization drives her to show up to work filled with gratitude and ready to make a positive change.

As Attorney General, Niki's core mandate focuses on ensuring the justice system functions equitably and fairly. She is also part of the Indigenous Justice Strategy, which works towards making the justice system fairer and better for the indigenous people. "We're working on reducing the system's impact on the indigenous people. It's something significant, though it will take years; having worked in this field, I find it extremely fulfilling," she says.

While growing up in a small town in British Columbia, Sparwood, Niki never imagined herself in such a role. She attended Queen's University in Toronto, studying environmental biology, only to realize she didn't have a passion for it. So, she took a year off and went to Ecuador, where she tried different projects until she realized she wanted to pursue a law degree. Upon graduating from law school in 2005, Niki worked with a firm focused on indigenous people. She distinctly remembers that it was the time when residential school claims were first coming to the court and survivors were coming forward to sue the government. 

"Working with the residential school survivors taught me so much about resilience, grace, human spirit, and overcoming adversity," she recalls. These experiences are a constant reminder of the work she must do to reconcile the indigenous people and their histories.

As someone who always followed her passion, practicing law made her realize that she wanted to work on changing the systems; being in the government gives her an avenue to do that. Niki pivoted into politics when working with Minister Katrina Chen, one of her role models, on a universal childcare plan. "There is a big power in sisterhood, finding that real person who can understand your struggle and give you that perspective and support which makes you feel you can do it," she says.

In the future, she wants to continue doing her best at her job. She also intends to keep breaking barriers and going places where no one like her has been.

Q&A

What does being a woman mean to you?

Being a woman means showing up with compassion and empathy and being strong while you're doing it. There's something about female power that's different. It comes from another place, and it's still powerful.

What has been your most significant achievement?

Becoming the first woman of colour as Attorney General in the provinces. In the legislature, there's a wall of all the attorney generals in the history of British Columbia, and it starts with these black-and-white pictures of Caucasian men and goes all the way. I walk past it thinking of all the people who have been in this position before me, all the decisions they made, and how different it is for me to be here. 

 
 
 
 
 
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What or who inspires you to do better each day?

I'm constantly inspired – I have daily meetings with people doing extraordinary things in the community. My job is to help them because it will benefit the province. Also, surrounding yourself with people who have that energy, who have that passion, is so important.

What is your advice to women who wish to follow your path?

You have to understand whatever you do in life – there'll be times when you'll get knocked down, and you'll feel like, is this for me, especially when you're breaking barriers, showing up in spaces where no one like you has been. There'll be people who'll doubt your abilities and times when you have to assert yourself. My advice is to surround yourself with people who know and love you; keep them around so you can talk to them, and don't give up. You have to believe in yourself, that you are capable and supposed to be here. Stay committed and stay on track.

What's your success mantra?

I don't have one, but I'm always thinking about how to do my best with the role and responsibilities I have been given. Every day I wake up wondering how I can be really good at my job. 

Photo: A Master Media

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