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Action Aid India holds women consultation program


Srinagar, Jul 24 (KNS): Action Aid India organized a state level consultation on ‘Young Urban Women (YUW) here on Wednesday. The focus of consultation was on sexual and reproductive rights, economic issues and public service entitlements of YUW in Kashmir. The event was held at J&K Institute of Management, Public Administration & Rural Development.

Director General Social Welfare Kashmir Rukhsana Gani (KAS) who was the special guest on the occasion highlighted the role Social Welfare Department has played and continues to play for young girls and women.

She talked about the institutions working under the department to provide assistance in various spheres like health, education, counseling, rehabilitation etc. “Women need to be at the helm of affairs when it comes to policy making. Organizations like ActionAid need to support government especially in the domains of public making – brining grounded evidence, and awareness generation on the ground – as there are many polices in the department about which a lot of women and young girls are not aware about” Gani said.

She congratulated Action Aid for organizing the consultation and inviting her to be a part of the event.

The consultation was categorized in three sessions- Sexual and Reproductive Health And Rights, Economic Rights and Gender Responsive Public Services.
Former Chairperson J&K Women’s Commission Nayeema Ahmad Mehjoor talked about the economic challenges that women face at workplaces highlighting occupational hazards faced by them working on menial wages and sexual harassment faced by women at workplaces. “ There is much work that is going on for women empowerment and much needs to be done to bring equal opportunities that working women in other parts of the country enjoy.”
She talked about the need of having safe environment for girls in and outside their households and at their workplaces, including institutions of education.

She recommended ActionAid to conduct field surveys to see the state of exploitation taking place against working women adding that women should take part in political processes and policy making.

Another key speaker on the occasion Mission Director Skill Development Mission, J&K Dr Peer GN Suhail gave a brief overview of economic issues of Young Urban Women in Kashmir and interventions by Skill Development Mission. “We have tried in our various projects to not only impart skills in young women but also we have tried to break stereotypes by imparting such skills in women which were earlier a men-monopoly,” Dr Suhail added that capacity building programmes for women who come from marginalized communities should be taken on priority.

Head Department of Gynecology, L.D Hospital, Srinagar Dr Nighat Firdous talked about the sexual and reproductive health. She said it is about psychological, physical and social wellbeing, not just an illness. “Entire society needs to be sensitive about the health of a procreating woman in particular, it doesn’t only mean a period of nine months but a woman’s health conditions are to be taken care of at every phase including the postnatal period.” Dr Firdous added that reproductive health should be available, approachable and acceptable to every woman, especially young women – who are relatively more vulnerable.

Researcher at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Rafia Farooq briefly touched upon the history of ‘rights’ and how various rights should be approached and said that state is to be made accountable about the guaranteeing of various sexual and reproductive health rights. “We as a society have to be sensitive in respecting the choices women make for themselves and women related issues are not to be dealt only by women rather there has to be an inclusive approach,” Farooq shared.

Gynecologist at Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Hospital, Srinagar Dr Zeenat talked about reproductive health risks and consequences for young adults. She said that the reproductive health has to be taken seriously in order to prevent mortality, morbidity, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and suicides. “Sex education has to be imparted at school level. Women have to be educated about menstrual issues, unsafe abortions, unwanted pregnancies and many such issues related to their well being.” Dr Zeenat added that a message to take home is that there has to enough awareness to combat the stigmas associated to women related issues.

Chairperson Women’s Wing Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI), and an entrepreneur - Arifa Jan encouraged the gathering to take up challenges that our system poses saying that there should be incubation cells for entrepreneur. “Entrepreneurs are change makers for the entire society - but it should be ethical.”

Gender specialist Resource Centre, Social Welfare Department Sameena Mir talked about the interventions by Resource Cell, Social Welfare Department related to economic and social rights of young urban women in Kashmir. “We have one stop centre for women in nine districts where we provide various services to women like legal assistance and rehabilitation.”

Psychologist/ Youth trainer at MOOL, Sustainability Research and Training Centre Dr Shaheena Parveen while speaking on the occasion said that we as a society need to question the standards (gender stereotypes) of what is being presented as ‘normal’ for both boys and girls from the very early age. “Standards for the bodies of women are set from the beginning and we as women need to be comfortable in our own bodies challenging unjust socio-cultural norms that hamper our growth,” Parveen added.

Chairperson J&K RTI Movement Dr Ghulam Rasool said that our policies are not gender responsive. a lot of women in Kashmir are aware about the Right to Information (RTI) and also practice it in accessing public services. he also added while approaching to the question of YUW, or any other initiative, we should have balance with respect to gender and they should be human-friendly”. (KNS)