International Women’s Day: The Achievers’ Voices

by Salma Masood

SRINAGAR: Just a day ago, the world celebrated the 108th International Women’s Day (IWD). Every year, March 8, is marked to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women from all walks of life.

In Kashmir, the day was marked with equal enthusiasm despite them living in a conflict zone, where safety and survival is the primary concern. But the tensions on borders and the streets have not prevented them from chasing their targets and making their presence felt in diverse fields.

Here are a few of these exceptional achievers talking about what IWD meant for them:

Nayeema Mehjoor
Former BBC (Urdu) broadcaster and former chairperson of J&K State Women Commission

Nayeema Ahmad Mehjoor

This day is a reminder to the patriarchal societies that half of the population is women who have not been given rights, opportunities and choices. The world has not respected women like human beings. Thus women shouldn’t stop until their aspirations are fulfilled. Although living in a conflict zone like Kashmir, staying alive and safe matters first. Kashmiri women are pursuing education and have achieved much more than women in India but sense of dignity and safety among them is what we are worried about. Despite the conflict, we want our dreams to be fulfilled. Women have the potential and capacity to do away with odds. I did it too. My mother left me early but my father always supported me positively. He didn’t let me give up. I took every setback as a strength to move on. I wish other girls would come forward to do the same in this big world and look for success in every field or aim until they succeed.

Women are peacemakers think a lot before taking any decision and they can be the best leaders. They lead homes and bring up children too. First treating women should create a balance. In families, communicate and cooperate with them to understand them and a women body should be created to deal with issues of women now that the women commission is also not available.

Parveena Ahangar
Founder and Chairperson of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), winner Norway’s Rafto Prize for Human Rights

Parveena Ahangar

We are surrounded by conflict but women still have rights as men do. Governments have done injustice with women and they have no relief at all. So many women lost their loved ones and other struggles trouble them more. In spite of this, we should maintain decorum undeterred by what the other party does. Women have to play their role. Ask Allah for courage and do your role.

Women’s rights have always been violated. We have not been at peace since we lost our sons and it is like a wound but we have to fight against injustice. I too faced criticism when I started my fight but if we focus on that then we shouldn’t have started in the first place. Right is right despite what the society and people say. Raising your voice is not easy when people accuse you of numerous things like she was paid to do it. But if we go out there we have to be determined to achieve goals. I didn’t want the injustice to continue so I chose to gather people like me and speak up against all forms of injustice. When even judiciary could not give us the justice we had to take the forefront for a long fight, which ought to be fought. This is everyone’s issue. Today I was affected; you might be the next tomorrow.

Wafa Vakil
Radio Jockey is known as RJ Haya

This day is for everybody to celebrate and let people know and understand the status of women in our society. Certain grave issues like female foeticide, domestic violence, dowry need to be dealt with by the authorities, people and civil societies. We should make it a norm to teach younger ones that girls are blessings. Issues of eve-teasing and emotional abuse have become new normal but people need to understand that it is not right and a line needs to be drawn.

Wafa Vakil (RJ Haya)

Fortunately, women education is not a big issue in Kashmir but quality education needs to be imparted. Everyone should learn a skill. Women who have any talent or skill should get together in small likeminded groups and help them nurture. I am the only women in my office and got a good environment. I don’t remember if people said things about me because that was not my focus. People can have big or small ambitions. The attitude to be adopted is to try. Trying and failing is better than not trying at all and sulking. Just have an ambition, make a plan and go about it, if you fail to make another plan.

Comparisons are not nice especially on the basis of gender rather compare the quality of the work. Women facing constraints should take people in confidence and try to create avenues but don’t leave it. Without support, things become difficult in a patriarchal society. Also, keep yourself educated about your field and stay steady in the battle.

Captain Sami Ara Surury
First Kashmiri Muslim women commercial pilot

There is no difference between boys and girls; just that one of them is prettier than others. Women have come a long way and their work should be recognised. A woman is more disciplined and gets things done, unlike men who talk more.

Sami Ara

I was never given a concession just because I am a woman. In fact, I had to be more precise and put in more effort than my male counterparts because my mistakes were noticed through and through. We have to create our own space. Every year we talk about the safety and security of women but the very next day news of women getting raped and beaten come in. The ground reality remains the same and we need to do much more about it. We are not very far behind.

Don’t stop her just because she is a girl, let her earn respect and she will make you proud. Once you earn respect you don’t have to struggle. We don’t have to snatch respect; work hard for it only when it comes to you. It took me 10 years to get a job as a pilot. I determinedly kept holding on with confidence and believe. People say discouraging things but it is ultimately you who has to decide.

Roohi Nazki
Promoter Chai Jaai and a former TCS executive

We have a tendency to deny the plight of the women. In this unequal society, rights are guaranteed by law but are not implemented. The rights should be engrained and a proper recourse for those infringing them should be created. But first we need to understand and acknowledge the issue, bring attention to it and only then can we devise ways to overcome it. Each of us should try our bit to the improved situation of women socially, culturally and legally. We have so many roles to play but people don’t recognise these odds. Women have put up a fight against the system like patriarchy, which has given rise to social and cultural archetype and stereotypes over the years.

Rohi Nazki

Women have worked doubly hard to get half the recognition that is accorded to men by default. Chances of getting promotions, equal pay, plum assignments and luck to find a supportive partner and family are thin. Women have so much at stake and every choice she makes is connected to family and society. A fundamental change would be when women will have independent choices even within a marriage. Until then we have to fight it while carrying on with our life. We should not be penalised for bringing women but the system should provide for difficult situations. Instead, we must be ensuring her comfort and tackling prejudice and bias that might affect her work. We need a support group, not for validation but key people in our lives to believe us. However, avoid unrealistic expectations and don’t let people deter you with their narrow perception.

 Soliha Yousuf
Captain J&K Women’s Rugby team

Women should be appreciated every day. We highlight the achievements and we appreciate those still struggling. I am proud to be a woman so should everyone else be. We should ignore who say women can’t do. Like in a chess game no doubt king takes a step but it is the queen who moves the board. Similarly, a society can’t function without women. The change has begun but we still have miles to go.

Soliha Yousuf

Living in a conservative society becomes a struggle. For me reaching the ground was a challenge. People said things when I left home, my family came under pressure and my career was not taken seriously. Even in the 21st century, this disregard exists even at the global level. Equality will be when no more questions are raised. People should be educated about the issue and practical examples should be created. Kashmiri girls have tremendous talent and I have seen girls far better than myself who can do wonders but fail to get support. Society will stop criticising us when the family starts supporting us.

Rugby is a physical contact sport became more difficult and girls tend to back out. Outside our state, I saw girls being cheered but we get pinpointed at home ground for being on the field. I had to live for my passion and as long as I was not doing wrong I had to do it.


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