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.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Enlightened Society

Irfat says there is a dire need to empower women on all fronts

(Ms. Irfat Ara Khan teaches in the Department of Psychology, Amar Singh College, Srinagar.)

Empower Her

Women are the foundation stones of a family and society. The progress and prosperity of a nation and the optimum growth and development of its female citizens are like two faces of the coin. However the status of women in the developing countries is still grim. More than one billion people, mostly women, are living in extreme poverty and the change in the trend makes few experts feel the onset of “Feminization of Poverty”. Not only have women been historically disadvantaged vis-à-vis access to the material, resources like credit, property and money but they have also been excluded from social resources like education. A women needs to empower herself and for this she needs access to the material, human and social resources.

Empowerment is a social experience that motivates people to transform their social location. Empowerment can be a “strategy designed to redistribute lower and resources” or “is a social action process that promotes participation of people, organizations and communities in gaining control over their lives in their community and larger society”. It is a process through which women increase the capacity to shape their own lives and environments. It represents an improvement in women’s awareness of themselves and their status as well as their efficiency at social interaction. Empowerment is seen as a holistic process encompassing cognitive, psychological, economic and political dimensions to achieve emancipation. The social structure and barriers that perpetuate unequal distribution of power and oppress women will be explored within group setting that involve home, work place, education and pursuit of personal development. Education can empower women to see the structural and psychological limitations, self imposed or otherwise by society, and to work towards an identity that can surpass the barriers.

Psychological development is more concerned with women’s feeling and the belief that they can change their situation themselves. Women are normally socialized to be submissive, to serve and let man in their lives make all the decisions that affect them. It entails competence in making decisions at the personal and societal levels to improve one’s situation. The positive psycho-social development leads to:

• Increased capacity of women for an advocacy and for participation in public life and decisions making.
• Strengthened knowledge and skills (e.g in advocacy, negotiation, management) of women for participation in democratic or community management bodies.
• More equal power relations between women and men at the household level.
• Increased decision making capacity of individual women
• Women and girls more able to realize their full human rights.
• Strengthened promotion and protection of the human rights of girls and women in
Law and action involving Police, prosecutors etc.

Strategies for Women Empowerment: There are six interrelating strategies through which empowerment can be made possible:-

Through Education: Empowerment through education would include re-education policy makers, securing equal access for boys and girls to education, holding workshops for teachers, producing materials in local languages, implementing special programs for women in their field of adult education and incorporating tradition, race and ethnicity into Programs. Education can be a means by which women learn about the experiences of other women and form a collective consciousness that empower them to fight injustice.

Through research and development: in considering research and development in empowerment, the importance of producing and dismantling information about women’s rights, collecting cross cultural studies and analyzing successful advocacy cases are crucial to learn about the arguments that persuade policy makers.

Through campaigns and networking: Networking is essential in women’s empowerment. It allows sharing experiences and leaning from one another, and involves organizing meetings on gender sensitivity in organizations.

Through trainings: By offering skill training and income generating activities, women are helped to overcome stress and reintegrate their capacities.

Though Media: Media plays a crucial role in reinforcing traditional barriers in society. Therefore it can be powerful tool in women’s empowerment. Organized mass media campaigns can raise awareness and create a social climate friendly to women’s issue.

Cooperatives as a Tool for empowerment: Cooperatives have the potential to be a great source of empowerment for women Housing co-ops, organizations co-ops or credit unions are some examples of co-op structures that women can utilize to seek empowerment. Finally a network has to be developed to facilitate call those organizations, agencies, individuals who are working for improvement of quality of life of women and hence for betterment of the society.

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