“When you invest in a girl’s education; She feeds herself, her children, her community and her nation.”
Though ‘Gender Equality’ is a slogan we hear in all spheres of life in the 21st century India, we still live in a society where a marginal section of patriarchy considers women as weak and subjects them to derogatory treatment. However, the society is changing towards gender equality at a very fast pace and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is no different. Women folk in large quantum are breaking the shackles of a predominantly patriarchal society and joining the mainstream, and mostly at all places, women are playing the role of pioneers in this movement.
One such flag bearer of ‘Woman Power’ is Miss Mahfooza Akhter, the youngest daughter of Mr Mohamed Ramzan, a school teacher in Rampura, Bandipora district. Mahfooza was born in a typical Gujjar family, where girls were primarily confined to household chores and schooling remained a privilege for the lucky few. Mahfooza was amongst the latter as her parents encouraged her education and rendered her all possible support to fulfill her dreams to become an educationist. With primary education in the village school, nobody imagined that she would excel in her career as an educationist. Despite lack of opportunities and economic hardships prevalent in the state, worsened by insurgency and terrorism, Mahfooza has risen above the existing norms of her society and academically excelled through her sheer hard work, dedication and determination.
Kashmiri Gujjar Girl born to illiterate parents secure 2nd rank in the University Exams.
After completing her graduation and teacher’s training, instead of seeking employment with good perks and salary, Mahfooza choose to be a champion of education in her village where she is currently working as a teacher in Greenwood School, Rajpura with very meager emoluments. She denied attractive offers from a number of Schools with attractive packages worthy of her educational credentials. She herself wanted to pursue higher education, but as a tribute to her society decided to spread a ray of hope amongst the villagers through the form of education.
She took up teaching amongst the poor students of her village and started motivating school kids especially girls in fostering their dreams towards self-reliance and societal development. She also conducts tuition classes for the students in her village for free as she strongly believes in the cause of imparting education and knowledge to the downtrodden. Simultaneously, she is furthering her academic qualifications wherein she is pursuing her post-graduation in Public Administration at IGNOU thereby ensuring that she gets enough time for the social cause of which she is a flag bearer.
She firmly believes her work amongst the budding minds of her village will finally open gates to new vistas of knowledge and opportunities for generations to come. Mahfooza considers Mother Teresa as her role model and wants to start a school for the poor, especially the girls of her village. The school will impart education for everyone free of cost and will be a shining light in the field of social service in Jammu and Kashmir. She is sanguine that her venture will be positively supported by both Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations working in the field of education.
Mohammad Ramzan fondly remembers how Mahfooza as a small girl often talked about how she wanted to do something substantial to uplift the girls in her village. Her pioneering contribution in female education will go a long way in creating a generation of women who will stand tall as guiding beacons for the society at large and Kashmir in particular.
Pictures of Educationist, Mahfooza with her family and students
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