As much as people have suffered due to the conflict, Kashmiris have also dwelled in a discriminating and an extremely conservative society where women have become victims and are caged, disempowered and dominated upon. Gender equality and women empowerment indicators are very low. Over the decades, the age-specific mortality in Kashmir has increased within the 25-50 years age-group. These are usually the bread winners of families in under-developed nations. However, in the recent past, Kashmir has also seen remarkable increase in age-specific morbidities. These are diseases/conditions which affect people for longer time periods, usually life-long.In other countries, these happen to be diabetes, hypertension and other medical conditions.
One uncommon condition in Kashmir is the burden of disability and lack of infrastructure and care for these people. In connection to this, women with disabilities are the most marginalized and socially excluded population. No proper healthcare system is provided for them. Access to healthcare also suffers due to the geographical structure, weather and the condition is compounded by the conflict. According to multiple projections observed in the south-Asian context, with the increase in urbanization, the health issues physical, social and mental issues, also increase. It is extremely challenging for the Kashmiri population to fight this epidemic while being stuck in a perpetual state of war, which is both; aggravating and are the cause of these problems, forming a vicious cycle.
Subsequently, the mental harmony of the nation has been in turmoil. MSF (Doctors Without Borders) India, recently conducted a survey in Kashmir and reported 47% of the adult population suffered mental distress. This is alarmingly high as it has severe impacts on the physical health and is reported to be significantly attached with non-communicable diseases like; diabetes and hypertension. These are commonly prevalent health conditions in Kashmir. Additionally, the social harmony of the nation has also fluctuated. The increasing cases of domestic violence can be attributed to the dangerous impacts of poor metal health among young individuals. Domestic violence cases against women are increasing.
Our society and the young population have to act now and bring together a social change, thereby safeguarding the rights of women. We can start by respecting women and their choices. Today, the world celebrates women in leadership across every continent. Kashmiri women and girls need to be supported at all levels on the grounds of equity and justice. The biggest and the first support should come from the family. Scientifically, a social change could be initiated only if behavioural changes are recommended and practiced. Incorporating these ideas at an individual level can have multiple meso and micro effects. A steep change can be initiated if knowledge in the area of gender, sexual and reproductive health rights is increased at the community level through school health programs and curriculum improvement. This may probably change the attitude of people towards women. This could be one no-cost intervention individuals could practice.
The United Nation has made a mandate Invest in Women in Science. In compliance with this mandate, millions are being invested to uplift women for their extraordinary physical and social importance in the society. However, young girls and women of Kashmir can only seize these opportunities if they are supported by their families.
I hope this theory of change reaches the policy makers of the state and the necessary steps are taken. The vision of Kashmir should encompass women empowerment. This indicator is extremely important for the sustainability of the world.