Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Child Labor is Illegal and Unethical, and Even More so When Victims are Only Females

Afsana shares the story of a young girl who dreams of becoming a doctor but is condemned into child labor

(Ms. Afsana Rasheed, 29, was born and raised in Srinagar and attended the Minto Circle High School. She graduated from the Government College for Women with a Bachelor's degree in science, and completed her post-graduation degree from the University of Kashmir, obtaining her Master's Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism. She has received numerous world-wide recognition and awards for covering economic depravation and gender sensitive issues in Kashmiri journals, which include Sanjoy Ghose Humanitarian Award, Bhorukha Trust Media Award 2007, and the 2006-07 UNFPA-Ladli Media Award. Her work on "Impact of conflict on subsistence livelihood of marginalised communities in Kashmir and Alternatives", was recognized by Action Aid India in 2005-06. She has travelled abroad attending a workshop on "conflict Reporting" by Thomson Foundation, Cardiff, UK, and a seminar for women in conflict areas by IKV Pax Christi, Netherlands. In February 2008, she compiled a book, "Waiting for Justice: Widows and Half-widows.")

Forced into carpet weaving, they long to attend school

Afsana Rashid

Srinagar, April 20: Sakina, 12, a resident of Budgam, would love to attend school but economic constraints at home forced her into carpet weaving which she dislikes the most.

“I love to read and want to be a doctor but I cannot as I have never been to school and can never join because of family compulsions. I will remain a carpet weaver who is often looked down by the society,” she regrets. Sakina has two younger sisters who like her have never been to school. However, her 15-year old brother studies in ninth standard. Her mother is a housewife and father does needle work.

She has been engaged in carpet weaving for the last six months and does not know what her wages are. She however remembers that she received Rs 50 from her employer on the festival of Eid which she gave to her father who rewarded her with a ten rupee note for which she bought grapes for herself.

She hates to be a carpet weaver as she has to work from dawn to dusk. “I really hate to sit at one place for such a long time working on the carpet,” she laments.

Another carpet weaver, Shazia in her late teens and from the same district is also upset weaving carpets. She added that it is the parental compulsion that drove her into the carpet weaving sector. “I too wish to go to school, wear uniform and carry tiffin but economic compulsions at home did not permit,” says Shazia.

Akeela, 15, from the same village could not join school as her father was suffering from a dreaded disease and family had to incur lot of expenses for his treatment. “They had no money to spare for my education although my elder brother managed to receive education up to tenth,” says Afroza. She works five days a week and receives a paltry sum of Rs 35 per working day.

However, for Shaista, 17, carpet-weaving is a source of livelihood. Having lost her father at an early age, she says she took to carpet weaving as means of survival for her family. “Since my father is no more so I have to earn and support my family”, says Shaista who earns a daily wage of Rs 30. Shaista who works for 11 hours a day feels respected by the community as she financially supports the family. Besides, she finds her employer cooperative. “I receive wages in time, which gives me satisfaction,” she says.

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