Independent India, over the decades, saw a revolution in the way an average Indian woman was perceived in the society. But the same change did not take place in Kashmir. By the time of onset of militancy in 1989, the women of Kashmir suffered and their status in society witnessed a steady decline. Religious fundamentalism which spread across the Valley had a huge role to play in this decline. The social discrimination women had to face by virtue of their gender was a catastrophe created by the radical minds of extremists in the Valley.

After decades of suppression, Kashmiri women started realizing the unfair treatment they had received from the society as well as their households. The media and policies of government have motivated Kashmiri women to pursue a career and come out of the delusion created by the extremists in the minds of people. Initiatives by authorities to improve the educational standards of girls have started reaping fruits.  This gradually spread to rural areas and is gaining foothold in Kashmiri households. The radical ideology of restricting the educational aspirations of girls, being spread by fundamentalists and extremists holds no ground these days. The abrogation of Article 370 was a turning point in the empowerment of women in Kashmir. The newly formed union territory of Jammu and Kashmir benefited from the policies of the Central government which have been successfully implemented in the other states.’

Khawateen In Kashmir making A New Beginning

Today Kashmir has given the country thousands of strong willed and hardworking women who have reached the pinnacle of success.  What makes their stories more endearing is their journey were replete with obstacles which they overcame successfully.  Their dogged administration to succeed propelled them to march ahead and inspire everyone they met on their way. Nadiya Nighat is Kashmir’s first female football coach.  The hurdles she faced didn’t have much to do with her gender but the problems of illiteracy.  To her credit, she has 10 National and State level awards.  Iqra Rasool of Baramulla, is a young cricketer who is putting the dream of becoming a part of the Women’s cricket team.  She idolizes Jhulan Goswami and believes in the mantra of working relentlessly to achieve her goals. Dr Sharmeen Mushtaq a medical professional became the first Kashmiri woman to participate in the snow car rally in Gulmarg.

She continues to push boundaries to live her dream. Tajamul Islam created history by winning a gold medal in the under 8 categories for India in the world kick boxing championship in Italy.  She is the first Kashmiri girl who had achieved such a feat.  Ayesha Aziz the country’s youngest pilot, she acquired her flying license at the age of 16.  She now flies Go Air planes and is emerging as a role model among women in the Kashmir valley. ACP Dr. Ruveda Salam a woman of many titles – a doctor, an IPS officer at the post of Assistant commissioner of police and a motivational speaker.  These women are an inspiration to all those young girls who want to carve a niche for themselves in the field of technology and contribute to the development of their homelands, all while keeping pace with the technological advancements of the rest of the world.            

In Kashmir when we talk about business, we talk of men only because traditionally women did not own or operate businesses on their own. But that is all now changing.  Young women of Kashmir are breaking all the barriers and trends in the field of work and business. It is their passion which is giving them strength to work even when they faced various hurdles in their path. These Kashmiri women are supporting their families while successfully maintaining balance between home and workplace. They are not only supporting themselves but also giving employment to many more.   There are different areas where women are exploring their skills and talent like agriculture, handicrafts, flower growing, jewelry, catering etc.  All these ventures may not seem that big, but the journey to achieve their small goals makes them an inspiration for future generation of Kashmiri women. Let’s talk about some Kashmiri women who have broken the glass ceiling and excelled in various fields.

Rifat Masoodi a mother of two, popularly known as “batwoman” is the only woman bat maker in the territory. Initially, she faced some hurdles but then she overcame her fears and continued her business. Today, she receives bulk orders from Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. Her story is that of motivation and dedication backed by the support of her family. One reason she wants the youth of Kashmir to pick up bats is to prevent them from falling victim to drugs. Samar Shawl, a 24-year-old Kashmiri girl has established an innovative and successful business of home delivery of gift hampers through her perseverance and hard work.  At the young age of 23, a fearless girl started a very rare business in Kashmir and created an example for others to start their own businesses. Mehwish Zargar, a lawyer turned businesswoman is the owner of a cafe in Srinagar.  There is a generation of Kashmiri women who are rising above these barriers and moving ahead on the path of innovation and entrepreneurship. Today’s Kashmiri women entrepreneurs do not come only from the established business families or from the affluent class, they come from all walks of life.

Rifat Masoodi
Mehwish Zargar

The world is moving towards achieving gender balance.  Its moving towards equality for both men and women.  The change is something that is needed and is essential.  For ages, men have had more privileges in every sphere of society.  However, that needs to change because we are all humans and we should all get equal right and opportunities.  It is heartening to see so many courageous and confident Kashmiri women striving to live more fulfilled and independent lives.  A society, in which women cannot realize their full potential, loses out on the significant potential for innovation, economic growth, and job creation.

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