She needs empowerment
'Beti Anmol ’ is a good beginning
WHAT’S UP BY SAJJAD BAZAZ
Women’s international day, this year, witnessed celebrations across the country to mark the commitment, dedication and achievement of women in different spheres of life. In our state, the government with an intention to arrest dropout rate of girl students belonging to Below Poverty Line (BPL) in schools and enhancing their employment prospects, rolled out a scheme ‘Anmol Beti’. Under the scheme, be made operational from April this year, Rs 5000 will be given as incentives to the girl students of educationally backward areas, who pass their matriculation examination.
The initiative of the state government launched on women’s international day to ensure that girls do not lag behind in receiving secondary and higher education is officially a humble beginning towards empowerment of women in our state, which otherwise has taken a back seat. But there are a lot of issues in the backlog which need to be cleared for the welfare of our women folk. Today women in rest of the country may be feeling more empowered and making their presence felt in every field, but the same is not true in our state.
Since women empowerment is currently a hot issue in India where she is treated as a second class citizen, the kind of empowerment there is not relevant to J & K State. Illiteracy, customs, traditions, poverty, ignorance, her own lack of interest and motivation are well known reasons, which have been hurdles in women’s empowerment.
Women in Kashmir have been bearing the brunt of disasters whether in its natural, social or political form. Even as they have suffered the most, they have kept their homes intact by gathering confidence and strength. In other words, armed conflict has affected women in many ways, physically, psychologically and economically, because they have been more vulnerable in armed conflict than in normal circumstances. Mistrust and fear looms large among the women. However, caught between the bullets of the different guns, women in Kashmir have been negotiating violence in everyday life even as they had lost their men folk, nears and dears to the bullets of either this or that. In other words, they are testimonies of horror, custodial deaths, torture, exile, exploitation etc. and they have every reason to feel oppressed from all parties of the conflict. Precisely, for them fear lurks everywhere.
One can gauge the plight of Kashmiri women by the fact that in Kashmir, a village is known as home to about 100 to 150 widows and “half widows.” Their husbands have been killed either in different encounters or have simply “disappeared” in the course of the conflict. Today after the deaths or disappearances of their husbands, these women are no longer grieving wives and mothers. The aftermath of the grieving period was perhaps more painful for them than the period of grief itself, as they continue to fear for their future.
Half widows are struggling to provide food and education to their children. They find it tough to cope with these additional responsibilities. Most of these half widows are illiterate. There have no means of employment and some do menial jobs, like washing dishes and other kind of work which does not meet their financial needs. The families of disappeared persons live in misery and dejection, and suffer financial constraints. The women face several problems that increase with the passage of time.
They have also become victim of psychiatric disorders and are suffering from depression, phobias, emotional instability, post traumatic stress disorder etc. Some time back I came across an incident in which a middle aged lady started wailing while boarding a bus for her hometown Kupwara. For about half an hour she was uncontrollable and this created panic in the bus. When asked about the cause of wailing, she narrated a woeful tale. Her husband, a casual labourer, was dragged out of home during a crackdown operation and was gunned down some 11 years back, she said; and was left, at that time, with three children – two daughters and a son. After losing her husband, she went from pillar to post to feed her family and for the past 10 years she never had two times meal. During this period she lost her elder daughter to a disease which was curable. But being penniless she could not afford her treatment. No relative visits her home, which is in dilapidated condition with leaking roof.
She had come to Srinagar to visit a psychiatrist. “I am suffering from acute depression and doctors have put me on regular medication some ten years back,” she said.
The treatment prescribed by the psychiatrist keeps her a little calm but the continuous struggle to carve out a living for her kids has not allowed her to come out of the depression mode. Precisely, she has nothing substantial to feed her family. Notably, a local chemist provides free of cost medicines to her.
The above mentioned plight of women in Kashmir is of course the outcome of the two-decades of conflict situation. Otherwise also Kashmir women have an old story of facing discrimination and disempowerment throughout their lives. Or we can say feminization of poverty is a phenomenon that is unfortunately on the increase in our State. We haven’t seen any constructive packages planned for empowerment of Kashmiri women during the past so many years. Be it health, financial or any other sector, our women folk continues to be ignored and never enjoys a preferred class treatment.
Since ours is a very parochial society, a bruised Kashmiri women needs nursing through a range of activities that should include active listening, counseling, etc. There should be proper articulation of the concerns of women to policy makers and interlocutors so that their sufferings are put to an end. Let an atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion prevailing among them is invaded and replaced by safe spaces for self-expression and reconciliation. Their empowerment should be in the shape of much needed support to come out of the trauma they have witnessed during all these years. They need to be nursed to realize the potential that God has given them, so that they can be the best in every role they are here to play, that of mother, wife, sister and also those of a valued citizen and a vital member of the society.
We have to bear it in mind that issues like poverty, trade and economic are very much related to women’s rights issues due to the impacts they can have. By tackling many such issues such as increasing their financial empowerment, access to better health care, etc. can derive beneficial results which can get passed along to the children and eventually to the society. Empowering women can lead to better chances of overcoming poverty and live full and productive lives. At the same time, their empowerment will translate into better the lives of children, families and the nation as well.
It is of utmost importance that the empowerment should not be cosmetic. Programmes like ‘Anmol Beti’ should be tailored on continuous basis to address to the above mentioned issues of our women and also to see an end to their objectification and commodification. Let civil society too seriously focus on the issue.
Lastupdate on : Sat, 12 Mar 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 12 Mar 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 13 Mar 2011 00:00:00 IST
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