Dynamic Women of South Asia Unplugged - World Women’s Day Special by Rameez Makhdoomi
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Dynamic Women of South Asia Unplugged - World Women’s Day Special by Rameez Makhdoomi

Srīnagar : India | Mar 08, 2012 at 12:22 AM PST
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Dynamic Women of South Asia Unplugged
World Women’s Day Special Rameez Makhdoomi courtesy:Kashmir SCENARIO WEEKLY NEWSPAPER (writter email:rameezh3@gmail.com)

International Women's Day (IWD), originally is called International Working Women’s Day, is marked on March 8 every year. In different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women to a celebration for women's economic, political and social achievements. It is an veracity that women have always played an imperative role in carrying forward the cradle of civilization towards the positive and right direction. On the eve of 2012 global women’s day, the Kashmir Scenario interacts with renowned women of sub-continent who have the potential to change the face of region towards betterment and try to get know how of their personas and get the feel they have being the “agents of change”. Mehmal Sarfaraz- Vibrant face of Pakistani Women Mehmal Sarfaraz is a woman of intellect and wisdom. Her persona is a paragon of success and example for other women and it is women like her who have enormous potential to change the face of sub-continent towards betterment.

CMehmal Sarfraz is the Op-Ed Editor of Daily Times, an English language daily in Pakistan. She joined the Daily Times in November 2009. The Daily Times is one of the most liberal newspapers in Pakistan.
Sarfraz has a dynamic calibre as she is also the regional Joint General Secretary of South Asian Women in Media (SAWM), a platform where women media persons can identify and find solutions to their problems. SAWM is committed to fighting gender-based violence and promoting women’s rights in SAARC countries.
Previously, Sarfraz worked as the Program/Principal Information Officer at the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA), an associated body of SAARC. She was the Deputy Editor of The Post, a national English daily, from 2005-2008. She also taught at Blessing Home School for two years before venturing into journalism.
Sarfraz has written for The Hindustan Times (one of the largest English newspapers in India), Rediff.com (one of the largest Indian online news website) and appeared on various talk shows. Sarfraz was the only Pakistani woman editor to moderate a panel discussion at the 16th World Editors Forum in the session on the importance of female editors in newspapers



Mehmal wishes a happy world women’s day to the global women especially the women of Kashmir. Mehmal Sarfaraz states-“Women are the worst victims of wars, be it civil war or conventional war. Kashmiri women, thus, have suffered a lot in the past six decades. In this day and age, what women need the most is to get educated so that they can be independent and campaign for their rights. Education is not just their basic right but something that will eventually break the barriers of ignorance. In Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s words, “No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you; we are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live." Mehmal Sarfarz further adds-“Women in South Asia have suffered greatly due to the patriarchal mindset prevalent in our part of the world. It is abhorrent to see the way most of our men folk treat women as if we are living in the Middle Ages and not the 21st century. In Pakistan, customs like karo-kari (honour killings), vinni and swara (exchange of women, especially young girls, to settle feuds), marriages to the Quran, etc, are still prevalent. But we have seen that despite adverse circumstances, the women of Pakistan and the entire South Asian region have done great things. Just recently, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, a Pakistani woman, won the Oscar for a documentary on acid attack survivors. Ms Chinoy showed the world that Pakistani women are as capable or even more than their male counterparts.” Certainly, Mehmal Sarfaraz has the persona to be the global role model for the women all over world.

Zamrooda Habib Zamrooda Habib , patron of Muslim Khawatein Markaz, is the most prominent and literate women face of pro-freedom camp in Kashmir. She began her mission with a struggle against dowry and other crimes against women. She later joined the ranks of pro-freedom politics in the Valley and even went to jail several times. Outspoken Habib, a staunch feminist, feels women are not getting due recognition for their contribution to Kashmir's resistance movement

Born in Mohalla Mehman, Rishi Bazar Anantnag (Southern Kashmir), Zamrooda belongs to high-profile and prestigious family, with her nearest kins holding good posts in administration. Breaking the traditional barrier associated with south Asian Politician, Zamrooda Habib enjoys having a very high qualification. She is M.Ed, Masters in Education and LLB .
Prisoner No 100, the ordeal of five years in Tihar jail by pro-freedom leader Anjum Zamrooda Habib narrated in the book happens to be the first prison dairy written by a Kashmiri prisoner. She has a specific message to the women of Kashmir on the eve of world women’s day. “Women in conflict zones like Kashmir can play a positive role in conflict resolution. Women of Kashmir have played a dynamic role in resistance and liberation movement. The Indian state through different agencies has committed heinous crimes like rapes against women of Kashmir, but they have always remained steadfast to the cause of freedom and liberation. The widows and half widows of Kashmir have been exploited by the Governments just for vote bank politics. It just took few months for west to awaken to the suffering of Arab women after the unrest unfolded there. But world powers especially west has been blind to the suffering of Kashmiri women who have suffered worst at the hands of security forces over the past two decades and no justice has been delivered. Women of Kashmir have felt tremendous pain as they have suffered in multiple capacities as sisters, mothers, wives. The rampant use of psychological drugs by the women of Kashmir highlights their pain. It is an encouraging sign that more and more women including the educated class are joining the resistance & freedom struggle .In the resolution of Kashmir dispute and on the negotiation table the women of Kashmir have a prominent role to play,” states Zamrooda Habib. Zamrooda Habib’s stature and achievements are certainly a role model for other women.

Neeva Jain(IPS) Born on 23rd Feburary , 1986, Neeva Jain represents constructive dynamism and positive energy. She is among the youthful women police officers of India. She was recently posted as Assistant Superintendent of Police headquarters Budgam. She has already made history in several respects. This is for the first time that a woman IPS officer has been posted in the Budgam district. Neeva Jain hails from Farrukhabad district , Uttar Pradesh, and has done her graduation from St John’s College Agra in 2007. She has the honour of being one of the youngest IPS officers who qualified IPS at an age of 22 in 2008. Neeva Jain states that the urge to become a positive agent of change helped her to join the prestigious Indian Police Service.”I always had an urge to contribute something positive to the system and help the things move in right direction and make the lives of masses easier. If you have the right attitude you can bring the change you desire to bring,” States Neeva Jain. Neeva Jain while delivering her message on eve of global women’s day states- “I wish the women of kashmir a very happy and prosperous World Women’s Day and hope that they contribute in a constructive manner to bring peace and progress to the Valley of Kashmir. Women have a key role in peace building efforts as by nature they are tolerant in nature. The women of India are progressing in right direction but there are still many challenges as women are still facing many hardships in different parts of the country.” On being asked how she plans to tackle a volatile situation in a turmoil hit part like kashmir ,Neeva Jain confidently states that “Negotiation has power .We always should engage with people in case of a volatile situation and using force should never be a priority .” Neeva Jain believes that police being the face of administration has often to bear the brunt.”People may be protesting against the shortage of commodities or erratic electricity supply, but it is the police force which has to always control the situation even if it is not the cause of that very situation”, states Neeva. A feminist reflects from Neeva Jain’s persona. She has given first priority to the cases in which women’s are involved as she states that a woman being involved in a case is a much greater stigma for that very women.

Mantasha Binti Rashid Mantasha Binti Rashid is a young Kashmir Administrative Service ( KAS) officer and hosts a popular TV show in Kashmir Sitaroon Sey Aagey telecasted on Doordarshan Kashmir. Interestingly enough, the programme she hosts has had its main thrust in providing awareness about the career oriented programmes especially about the administrative services to the students of Kashmir. Born on April 19 , 1986 she is doing her bit to contribute constructively to society. Women like her are seen as an agent of positive change by masses. Mantasha Binti Rashid wishes women of globe especially women of Kashmir a happy and prosperous world women’s day and expresses her feeling as women of Kashmir in the above critical opinion . “Last month, in January when I was skiing in Gulmarg I met a girl from Delhi. We had quite a few talks while having lunch, sitting on terrace and walking upto the slopes. Once she asked me if I found Kashmiri men strange too? By too she obviously meant that she did! On talking further she explained that she feels very uneasy talking to kashmiri guys and feels that they ogle at girls, stare and pass comments.

I tried to tell her that it could be because by far the guys she has met lack exposure or are not so educated and sophisticated. In the heart of my hearts I knew that I am just saving the image of my people, rather male folk. But I wonder for a moment why should I be doing that when the same men harass me or other females everyday on roads, buses, colleges, tuition centres, offices, phones and sometimes at home too. I along with so many females fear boarding public transport because the man sitting next to you on the seat will make sure to sit closer; in case you are standing he will make sure to brush against you. All you can do is to recite prayer in your heart. You can’t dare question his actions and movements as he will boldly scold you for your attire saying often why are you not veiled, inviting the scorn of the whole lot of passengers for having the guts to talk and not being veiled! I wonder in which chapter in our holy book, Quran is it mentioned to be disrespectful of women for not covering themselves from head to toe and even harassing them? Does that mean that only Muslim women deserve respect and by virtue of being just a woman, one can’t be respected? Or does it mean that only women are the ones on who the onus of being nice, covered and cultured lies .We must have often observed men talking ill of women who wear jeans or trousers(other than salwar kameez) in our society; the reasons being jeans is too western an outfit. When the same piece of clothing has been worn by our men for four decades now why do we have issues of culture and ethnicity associated with it if a woman wears it? Leave aside that, even small changes in looks or actions of female folk become topics of huge debates because we have, as a society made a watertight pigeonhole in which an ideal female is fitted into without caring to provide an ideal environment for the survival of that ideal image of a woman. No amount of deviation from that set role is acceptable to the respectable men folk of our society who don’t find it vulgar when young, school and college going boys show the rims of their underwear’s displaying the brands! The same men brought up in a patriarchal or moreover chauvinistic family and societal set up feel it their moral obligation to keep out women when it comes to decision making process at home or among relatives. They also take pride and privilege in branding a female who has been separated from her husband a not-so-good character person and one who elopes with a guy a cheap character(as if she eloped alone!!). From the school to which a child is sent to the selection of spouse for children(strangely adults are children in our society even after having children of their own!)all is decided by the male head of the family. Matasha further adds “That girl from Delhi didn’t find it uneasy putting up in one of the most notorious and unsafe cities in the country but found it strange and uncomfortable in the pristine valley with pious people! Looking at the increasing crime rate against women in our society, which earlier wasn’t so low as we would think ,but wasn’t reported or covered by media for reasons like shame and stigma(be it for dowry, eve teasing, rapes or molestations)it is truly high time we introspect as a society, a nation.” The words of Mantasha Binti Rashid are a tacit and bold admission of painful realities surrounding our social fabric and reflect both the microscopic and macroscopic pain of Kashmiri women.

Madhuri Banerjee Madhuri Banerjee is a world renowned author and comprehensive media professional, having worked in all forms of the visual medium —TV as a Senior Producer with Zoom, advertisements with White Light Motion Pictures and her own production house Gray Matter Solution, documentaries as a freelancer with PSBT and commercial Bollywood films as an Assistant Director. She has worked with stalwarts like Subhash Ghai, Kaizad Gustad and Rohan Sippy, and music director Anu Malik. Madhuri graduated from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi with a Bachelor’s degree in English Honours. She continued her education acquiring a Master’s in Mass Communication and Films from Jamia Millia Islamia. Her thesis film, “Between Dualities” won her the National Award for best documentary on women’s issues. Besides media, she is passionate about travelling, fashion, reading, and zumba! She gives relationship advice to followers for her column called Love Guru in the Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle every alternate Monday. She has currently finished working on a commercial film script and the sequel to her novel, which is the second part of the trilogy for Penguin India. Her debut book Losing My Virginity and Other Dumb Ideas has sold over 40,000 copies in the first year of its release and was on the best seller list for over 10 weeks. Madhuri Banerjee wishes women of Kashmir a happy global women’s day and has an intellectual message for them on the eve-“Women are wondrous explosions of love. We must never keep them stifled in a box of stereotypes and institutions. Yet in our society, we continuously criticize women. We say things such as they’re not good mothers, wives, daughters, cooks, homemakers or workers. Then that is followed up with they’re too fat, thin, ugly, stupid, brash, docile and it continues. It goes on so that we feel better about ourselves and fail to realize we’re sending out negative energy. This affects how we behave in our daily lives. We fall prey to our own undoing. By saying harmful things about each other, we think we are superior to those women. However, it comes back in some manner. Women believe what people say. Insecurities set in. They try to remove them like a bad stain that doesn’t disappear. And then something else is mentioned in a casual remark and it affects us so deeply that we fall into depression. Suddenly we are trapped by our own psyche that thinks we’re not worthy, we’re not good enough, we don’t deserve love. That is not true. This is all because of the negative energy we have sent out. We have to first stop judging other women. It needs to start from you. Because when women judge other women, the men follow suit. Every woman deserves to be pampered, cherished, and worshiped. Every woman deserves the best that life can give. We need to become far more than the sum of what is expected from us. We need to be our own beacon of light and shine for each other and ourselves. I have studied women from around the world and I find Kashmiri women have this iridescent symbol of hope that shines from within. Not only are they an amalgamation of stunning beauty and gorgeous bodies, they are filled with God’s power of indomitable strength and fierce determination. I believe they can lead the way for women across India. Because it really is a paradise on earth, and not just for the scenery, but for the women of the land who make it beautiful. I hope they will take this message for themselves and for others as well,” states Madhuri.

Nashrah Batool
Nashrah Batool ,a B.E student from J & K proactively tweets on the famous social networking site Twitter and her twitter name @ tulri (honeybee) reflects on different topics. She is currently studying Electrical Engineering in Jammu. On the eve of world women’s day she expresses her feelings proficiently in this beautiful article-
“Wajood-e-zann se hai tasveer-e-kaynat mein rang, isi ke saaz se hai zindagi ka souz-e-darun..
"The picture that this world presents, from woman gets its tints and scents. She is the lyre that can impart pathos and warmth to human heart."
Solace of father's eyes, pride of husband, and blessing for the children- In the arena of life multiple roles played by woman are incontrovertible. The individuality, the character she displays does not restrict itself to personal zone of life only but extends to a well maintained professional sphere too. No field has been left unimpressed. Some great names I remember having learnt since my KG's are that of Mother Teressa, Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto, Lata Mangeshkar, Noor Jehan, Tenzing Norway, Kalpana Chawla, Abeda Parveen and the count never ends. The versatility is evident from the list itself- each name has a well counted fame in respective field.
The above mentioned couplet by Allama Iqbal gives a clear picture of the position a woman holds in the universal system. He describes woman as a soft song which keeps the human heart warm and tuned. The world , he says, with no woman would be colourless.
Sharaf Mein Badh Ke Sureya Se Musht-e-Khak Iss Ki
Ke Har Sharaf Hai Issi Durj Ka Dur-e-Makoon
"Her handful clay is superior far to Pleiades that so higher are for every man with knowledge vast, Like gem out of her cask is cast."
The achievements women attained in variety of spheres-be it science or literature, sports or entertainment etc.- are irrefutable. She once moved out of her coop and ended up on moon. She set foot on highest mountain peak. She gave theories and proved words. She ruled. She led masses and led to better. Been kissed by success all the way, women section of society still moves ahead with great zeal.
"Achievers fly high and never look back." Talking of achievements I can't refrain myself from naming some female achievers. In Business world- Irene Rosenfield of Kraft foods, Andrea Jung CEO of Avon cosmetics; Sports world- Serena Williams (Tennis) , Saina Nehwal (Badminton), Kay Yow (Basketball coach), Pat Palinkas (Football) , Gayle Sierens (Football commentary), Lindsay Davenport (Tennis) , Gertrude Ederle ( Swimmer), Manon Rheaume (Ice hockey), Lucy Harris (Basketball), Nancy Lieberman ( Basketball) etc; Politics- Benazir Bhutto, Sonia Gandhi, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Victoria Woodhull, Susan B. Anthony, Hinq Rabbani Khar etc; Entertainment- Farah Khan, Madhubala, Meena Kumari, Nargis, Asha Bhonsle, Iqbal Bano, Whitney Houston, Adele etc. Pakistan based Oscar winning Film maker Sharmeen Obaid- Chinoy's name cannot be left out.
Often having heard that "Behind every succesful man is a woman". The words prove themselves right every time-contribution being direct or indirect. A wish, a blessing from mother at the time of exams takes away a tonne of burden off kid's mind. A single word of encouragement from wife props up the husband from fall and failure. Every Sita with Ram, Eve with Adam and a Mary for Jesus was created for a reason.
History has eye witnessed the era when women were looked down upon. That era was surely not the era of women. Girl child was buried alive, wives were beaten to death, women were not allowed out and were suppressed. But with an advancement in studies, times and conditions changed.
Inspite of all the knowledge and information about the position woman holds in society and religion, certain shameful acts like abortion of female foetus, dowry system and other forms of violence against women still prevail. These disgrace her beautiful existence. These immoral acts if eradicated, women will prosper even better and excel everywhere, for they have the abilities unseen till date.”

Nasrah Batool’s passionate and dynamic elucidation of role of women in the society aptly reflects the dynamism of the women of Jammu& Kashmir.
kashmirvalleyjournalists is based in Srīnagar, Jammu and Kashmir, India, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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