Nazir Ahmad Rather
After getting elected from her village LalporaTangmarg as a Sarpanch, 28-year-old Suraya Rather is busy these days getting things done for her people. She is the only woman sarpanch from Tangmarg who is fighting backwardness of women in the area.’’ My first priority is the women of my halkapanchayat. It is they who have voted for me and I am their representative,’’ says Suraya Rather.
With a keen desire to lead her people, Surya was asked by her villagers to contest the Panchyat elections as she had already established herself as a social worker in the area. “Suraya was a right candidate for us because she had a nice record as social worker in the village, ’ says AsiyaBano of Lalpora village. Asiya says besides being an efficient social worker, Surya whom they call Beti, is a fearless and an honest girl. She believes that she possesses the qualities of a good orator and a good leader.
Suraya wanted a change in her village, the reason she started to work as a social worker. “There is a huge number of conflict-related victims and orphans in my village, they were living a worst life after the death of their sole bread earners. It was their suffering and helplessness that prompted me to work for them,’’she says.
The energetic sarpanch believes that it is very important for her to see the women folk on the path of progress. She believes is it very important to have a greater role of women in the society.
“I think women have been marginalised by the men folk of our society, they are rarely considered as an important entity of our society as far as the decision making is concerned. I am trying to change this perception at lower level,’’ opines Surya. She her efforts will provide a boost to the confidence of women in her village.
Apart from taking a keen interest in settling the village level conflicts and supervising the developmental works of the village Suraya, unlike many other Sarpanches has also involved herself greatly in anti dowry campaigns and women developmental programmes.
“I am attending and organising the women awareness programmes especially against the dowry and their status in the society. I encourage them to participate in such programmes so that they can realise their real position in the society.”
‘’Surya is young and energetic. She is highly cooperative and women especially feel comfortable while discussing their problems with her,’’says Abdul Rashid Thoker, the ward member of the Lalporahalkapanchayat. Rashid says Suraya has so far been successful in getting 12 old age pension cases settled in favour of the deserving candidates since June this year.
At personal level,Suraya says it was not an easy decision for her to contest the panchayat elections. “Initially my parents told me that it is not an easy job to head a village like Lapora.They had a number of apprehensions but I succeeded in convincing them.’’
Surya says that in the beginning her mother too forbade her to contest the elections because of her being unmarried. “In the beginning I told her not go for the elections because of some social constraints. Our society doesn’t allow the girls to be so outspoken, but when she won the elections, we also supported her in taking up her responsibilities,” says Raja Begam, Suraya’s mother. “I have full faith in my daughter now.’’
Suraya herself being very poor and a deserving candidate for Indira AwasYojna (IAY) assistance has not so far submitted her papers for the same because she believes it is her people who should first get benefited from the scheme.
“It is true that I fall under IAY category but I believe that I am a representative of my underprivileged people who lack proper guidance and access to big offices which is the reason I plead their cases first,’’says Suraya.
Suraya has a very encouraging view about her own brief experience as a sarpanch and says she feels empowered after getting elected from her own panchayat.
“I feel that I am growing as a person since the day I got an opportunity to serve my people in this manner. There is a great change in my approach now, initially I used to feel dejected with my failures but now I take my failures as my challenges,’’ adds Suraya.