By Zia Darakshan
Women’s empowerment is a much debated issue and the government has been prioritising its support to empower women in a most effective way. Be it entrepreneurial activity, political platform, corporate management affairs or any other sector which has remained male dominant, the government in the last nine years has been tailoring initiatives to bring women at the centre stage of the country’s progress.
Basically the governments around the world have turned heads towards women’s empowerment as they have realized this genders role in the development of nations. Various programmes and schemes are being continiously tailored to help women obtain empowerment.
In the context of Kashmir, there is a need to consider the empowerment of women in Kashmir, with the backdrop of the armed insurgency that began here in 1988 and posed challenges for pioneers of women’s emancipation as it unfolded.
It was revealed by the team head of a study group of reliable institution that while conducting the study on , “the socio economic status & mental health status of a particular cult of women” they came to know about a lady from south Kashmir living in a pathetic condition along with her four daughters. She had been abandoned by the local communities because of the alleged unsavoury behaviour, she and her daughter were accused of. While deciding upon visiting her, the team was asked to abandon the idea on the pretext of the alleged tarnished reputation of the particular family.. However,the team ignored the advisory and decided to visit the family. The team head enquired from the lady about the negative image it had in the local community ,expecting a denial and a counter statement. To their astonishment ,the lady confessed about whatever she was alleged of .According to her account of her ordeal, it was not less than a nightmare. The young lady had lost both, her husband and her son, the only breadwinners of the family, in the conflict. Her eminence was initially placed in the highest of books by the separatist leaders, and everyone showed his sympathy towards her and saluted her for the bravery she had shown and the family had shown through. Despite the fact that she needed more than just words, she also required practical assistance. It included the supplies that she needed to run her kitchen and the means to pay for her daughter’s education while keeping the business running. Having been left by herself unable to provide for her daughters, the woman was forced to tread the unsavoury path in order to feed her daughters. As a result, the daughters were also forced to follow the footsteps of their mother, thus continuing their lives as they had been.
One of the horrendous things that have happened to women in Kashmir is that it is not the only instance that has transpired, there is a multitude of similar cases, where women have been victimized by conflict in the past, and its those scenes that will give one goosebump in the face of the ordeals endured by those who have suffered under conflict.
There is no doubt that women are the victims of conflict most severely, some of these women are widows, some lost their breadwinners, others have been disowned, and even half widows are the most vulnerable because they do not fall under any government policies and they are not eligible to inherit anything.
Kashmiri women continue to silently carry the brunt of violence both directly and indirectly while living through the dark days of the conflict. The Kashmiri women have been traumatized every time a family member has been killed or disappeared, but they are also often the primary caregivers. A sustained climate of violence and fear leaves them with little choice but to mourn their losses and provide emotional support to their loved ones. There have been instances in which they were forced to assume headship, but were left with the burden of the families they led mostly orphanages. Women have been suffering from stress related disorders, which have been taking a toll on them while they endured the brunt of the turmoil. The number of patients visiting doctors for psychiatric diseases is exceeding 5000 every year, with the majority of them women. Moreover, the worst part is that most of these patients do not have enough financial resources to pay for treatment.
This case is a sad tale of violence and conflict that was perpetrated primarily by separatist factions who, as the main stakeholders in this case, never actually took action to help the distressed women who suffered at the hands of the conflict. To empower such women, it involves more than just lip service; it involves putting in place a system that also ensures their livelihood or makes them productive.
Women here are always the ones to suffer the brunt of disasters, whether they be natural, social, or political. To endure the worst while maintaining the integrity of their homes is no easy task.Today, what Kashmiri women need is to be empowered. When we talk about empowerment, we need to segment them based on their profile and design solutions accordingly.
The government has created policies specifically geared towards such women, which is a boon in itself, since it not only makes a woman self-sufficient and reliant but also facilitates her to make her own way and take care of her family entirely. Although we dont have specific govt policies towards conflict ridden women where they can come under the ambit and get benefitted .However, a lot can be done to rehabilitate such women where self help groups,banks and other NGOS can intervene and restore their plight.
Pertinently,the J&K administration has started a mass movement for socio-economic upliftment of women across the UT. The three new initiatives of Digi-Pay, Krishi Sakhi and Pashu Sakhi besides several other programs of women empowerment such as Hausla, Tejaswini, UMEED, Rise Together will further supplement the efforts of J&K government in empowering women and making them a key partner in UT’s development journey.
Another ,SWADHAR Greh, one of the Government schemes for women’s empowerment in India, aims to provide shelter, food, clothing, social, economic and health security. This scheme provides legal assistance to women and helps them take initiative for readjusting in societies. This scheme can be worked out for women who have been rendered widows or half widows as a result of turmoil and are struggling financially to maintain their household and run their domestic affairs.
Besides, enhanced access to quality and free education for the girl child, free career and employment counselling are just a few things that can go a long way in boosting her self-confidence, as well as helping her regain her self-sufficiency that had been undermined by years-long turmoil and can be regained with little effort.
Succinctly,it could be summarized that we should identify, rehabilitate, and provide all the amenities of life to the women who have been wrecked by the circumstances created during all these years of turmoil.
Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
- The author is a Srinagar based columnist
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.