Women Empowerment in Kashmir

Targeting the grass root level for effective change

As I write today on the issue of women empowerment, it seems to be a topic that the society hasn’t fully understood yet. It should be made clear at the outset that women empowerment doesn’t mean impartially giving more importance to women rather simply to instill the concept of gender equality in the society. It is a matter of grave concern that we’ve been lacking in this aspect because logically speaking we under utilize almost half of our human resource. It is also ironic that this is a country where women are glorified as symbols of power, knowledge, wealth and prosperity. It is apparent without any doubt that patriarchy is the main stay of our society.

Post-independence, since our constitution has come into effect the core emphasis has always been on principle of equality and justice. In article 15 of the constitution it is mentioned that “The state shall not discriminate against any citizen on the basis of religion, caste, sex, place of birth or any other factor”. Article 16 clearly states “There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizen in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the state.” The Indian legalization without doubt is committed to provide same rights and opportunities. It still seen that the situation on ground is vastly different from the rosy picture painted in the constitution.

Speaking about Kashmir, the challenge has been even harder, issues such as alienation of the state through the years, militancy, and regressive customs have contributed to subjugation of Kashmiri women.

Some glaring issues for women in Kashmir have been low literacy rate, high dropout rate and mismatch between education and employment. The average Kashmiri girl is underprivileged, Period. Factors such as poverty, parental illiteracy, poor family planning, child marriage, cultural practices, and state transport facilities are the main obstacles in way of women empowerment in the state.

The female literacy rate is around 58 percent out of the overall literacy rate of 68.74 percent, J&K is one of the lagging state when it comes to education. Mention of poor condition of education in the state is being brought out repeatedly because hands down, Education is the key to empower women. The government has been putting concentrated efforts in enhancing the education infrastructure of the country as a whole but such initiatives are very slow to take off in J&K due to the various obstacles stated above. The government schemes just doesn’t seem to reach the grass root level.

To cut the long story short improving the state of average Kashmiri girl is the catalyst for state development. The change in attitude has to start from homes of the Kashmiri people. We need to introspect and bring about change in our mentality which will lead to change in our regressive customs. Such Idealist values are easy to be written but very tough to be implemented.

Concentrated efforts, perception management, greater financial investment are some of the steps which can start this movement. The society as a whole has to be persistent. Enhancing women participation at grass root level is very critical to improve the overall economic development of the state. One of the major step to ensure improvement is security of women in our society, it goes on to provide a conducive environment for women to blossom.

The society is filled with examples of women surpassing men in many fields even with the existing rampant bias. The state has a long way to go to achieve these milestones. It is high time to start efforts to reach our full potential. The equality in our society is longing for arrival of women to the battlefield.

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