Women as Equals: Can Kashmir Take the Challenge?

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Health must include physical, social and mental components. In our context, the physical components may imply the absence of disease, aversion of disease or injury and prevention of disease or injury. The social components imply; Social harmony, women empowerment, status of discrimination, gender equality and most importantly ‘individual agency of women – decision making’. Finally, the mental components include mental harmony at home, accessible support systems, status of stigmas and discrimination, stereotyping, eve-teasing, domestic violence and sexual harassment. These are also very important indicators for measuring the inequities in a society. An undesirable score of these indicators implies a disintegrated, partial, discriminating and diseased society. 

Unfortunately, women in our societies are dominated upon, discriminated and made dependent thereby losing an important, growing and powerful resource of the family.  The controlling nature of our society makes the environment twice as difficult for this marginalised population as men. This disparity is palpated in employment, income, social positions, leadership and decision making.  As suggested by World Health Organisation (WHO), a woman could be the best source of physical, social and mental health for a family. There is enough scientific evidence to hypothesise that these social inequities in Jammu and Kashmir are prevalent at alarmingly high-degrees. However, understanding the concept of health in-depth, in the context of women in Jammu and Kashmir becomes imperative as we discuss.

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According to world economist forum, for every single dollar invested in health, yields a benefit up-to 40 dollars. However, it is evidenced that, for every dollar invested in pregnant mother’s health yields up-to 100 dollars in return for mother and child’s health. The genetic printing and make-up of an individual happen during the intra-uterine life i.e. while the mother is pregnant. This encompasses all the necessary genetic armamentarium necessary to strive and thrive in the current toxic environment, which the mother transfers to the foetus, as hypothesised by Barker. The months of pregnancy are the most crucial period for an individual; as not only the immediate health of the foetus depends on this time period, but the health-over-lifetime of the foetus’ is affected by the time period he/she spends in mother’s womb, as proven by research. That is why it should be referred to as “Best health insurance period”. There is enough evidence to believe that, if all the aspects of health, for a pregnant mother, are maintained throughout this time-period; it could actually be a win-win investment in the health of one’s child and overall family.

The question arises; How to tackle the situation individually with minimum investment?

One small intervention, which also puts the review to a conclusion would be; allowing ‘individual agency to women’. This implies, bringing them in the decision making of the family, making no disparity against gender, supporting them under the grounds of equity and investing in their education. The special characteristic that can possibly secure the health of an individual for lifetime deserves utmost respect and attention in the society. Public health organisations have recommended special focus on women time and again. 

The world has already begun to ‘invest in women’ while Kashmir stays in the shadows of conflict and a discriminating society. The WHO’s 72nd Health assembly, recently declared 2020 as the year of Nurses and the Midwives. This implies a huge investment in the education of women. Moreover, UN-Women have made “Investing in women in science” their prime mandate to reach 2030 milestones of sustainable development goals.

Pregnancy is the biggest sacrifice; a woman makes for her children, affecting her body forever. Leaving her parents’ home, quitting employment or leaving education behind, changing her identity, resorting to household chores due to familial pressure are also some common social norms existing in our society which make women more vulnerable and marginalised. A special focus needs to be laid towards the women of Kashmir and necessary privilege-efforts are required to oust this population out of vulnerability. This could be one strong intervention towards a healthy Jammu and Kashmir.


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