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Young women eager to join politics, administration in valley

Srinagar, Indian Occupied Kashmir: Amidst government revelation that only 12 percent women constitute its workforce, many Kashmiri women, mostly young girls, are saying that their under representation should not deter Kashmiri women from pursuing ambitious career choices like joining civil services or politics.

Asma Shabir (22) is a case in point. She says the under-representation of women in administration is a motivating force for making it to the selection list of Kashmir Administrative Services (KAS).

“If women can come forward successfully in areas such as medicine and education, why not in administration? This question itself is a driving force for me,” says Asma, who is also pursuing a Post-graduate degree in economics.

“There are certain issues that are ignored more often because they are in one way or other related to women. A woman in power can address them well. And I believe, a woman can prove to be a good leader as well,” Asma told this reporter.

Seconding Asma is Law applicant Hafsa Farroq(23). For Hafsa her maternal cousin who was a former lawyer served her the inspiration. " It did inspire me to see her in black court," says Hafsa.

However, her cousins decision of leaving her practice after marriage inspired Hafsa the most. " She left her profession after she got married. That is what inspired me the most. If i am selected for the course, i wont give a second preference to my career over marriage or any other thing", adds Hafsa.

Over the years there has been significant rise in women seeking role in Kashmir politics and administration which is reflected from the number of women applying for courses in political science, Law or even preparing for prestigious civil services.

The University of Kashmir this year recorded the highest number of female candidates applying for both Law and Political Science. Political Science received around 2500 applicants both male and female while as law received around 1000.

Rehana Yousuf, 21, is one such candidate who has applied for Political Science in at kashmir university. Despite having no political connections, Rehana intends to join mainstream politics in coming years.

“The women that join politics here are usually through family routes. They grow up in political set up and imbibe a political mindset. I don’t any political background; hence the only way to understand politics is to study politics. I really want to join politics for a woman’s presence in politics may serve as a boost to women’s rights and much more,” Rehana told this reporter.

MLA Shamima Firdous is one of the few women candidates who have been active in the field of politics. She was recently appointed as chairperson of Jammu and Kashmir State Commission for Women with the status of a Minister of State. “To be a part of politics in Kashmir has been the biggest challenge of my life. There were times when I used to get scared and tired of the pressures it brings along. But then my determination made me steadfast. I used to tell myself that if I will quit, it won’t be a failure for me only, but for the whole lot of Kashmiri women who want to join politics,” said Shamima Firdous.

Political analyst and writer, Dr Javid Iqbal believes women have an equal right to get involved in decision making bodies if only they are able to maintain the balance between work and home. “Women constitute 50% of our population, hence to even consider any sector of public activity being out of their reach would be wishful thinking. Sheer size of educated and upcoming women is bound to enter these fields. But there is just one consideration, could it be possible to balance hectic public activity with motherhood that nature has devised as the primary responsibility of women,” Dr Iqbal told this reporter.

“There are multiple examples of women who are coming out of the tough ordeal with flying colours. They are balancing motherhood with intense public activity. However, it cannot be everybody’s cup of tea,” added Dr Iqbal.

While women in Kashmir have been under-represented in Governmental bodies over a period of time, increasing number of women largely believe the existing situation calls for a course in political leadership for women.

Member J&K Muslim Wakf Board, Dr Nusrat Andrabi said young women should be a part of political and economical forum. “Women are under-represented not only in politics but in all other spheres as well. The political arena is not considered safe and secure because of the stigma on the political role of women. The recent incident that happened in the assembly is shameful and shows the condition of women not matter how much we pretend that women are emancipated. Women should have a say in politics and should not be subjugated by their male counterpart,” said Dr Andrabi who was a leader of 10 member delegation to attend the historic peace dialogue in Muzaffarabad in 2012.

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