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, March 12, 2011

Recognizing the Noble Gender

Roshan Ara says that women's empowerment will stay as a meaningless slogan so long as women continue to be defined by societal norms rather than individual merit

(Ms. Roshan Ara, 45, was born in Warihama, in Budgam district. She attended the Government High School Aripanthan, and the Government Higher Secondary School Beeru. She graduated from the Government Womens College (GWC) Srinagar, University of Kashmir, and the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi. Ms. Roshan Ara has degrees in B.Com, M.Com, M.A. Economics, B.Ed, M.Phil, Diploma in Women's Empowerment and Development, and Ph.D. work underway titled 'Managing Work and Family Roles: A Study of White Collar Working Women in Kashmir.' She is presently a Lecturer in Commerce, Department of School Education, Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar. During leisure time she enjoys reading newspapers & journals, staying engaged on Women's Issues, and writing articles for newspapers & journals.)

Exploitative Gender Construction

“A bee is not honoured because she labours hard but because she labours for others,” says St. John Chryston. What about a woman who always works for others?

The future of the nation lies in hands of the women as they are architects of our future generations. Still consciously or unconsciously they are being kept away from all those activities that are expected to enhance their own personality and status in the society. Women on one hand have responded to others’ requirements positively but they are themselves continuously discriminated against, and this discrimination is legitimised by social structures based on religion, culture and politics.

Traditional models of division of labour, with the man in charge, have changed but not to a desired extent. Women’s contribution to agriculture whether it be subsistence agriculture or commercial agriculture when measured in terms of number of tasks performed and time spent is always greater than that of men. The extent of women’s contribution is aptly highlighted by a micro study conducted in Himalayas which found that on a one hectare farm, a pair of bullocks works for 1064 hours, a man for 1212 hours and a woman for 3485 hours in a year. The unorganized sector accounts for about ninety four percent of economically active women; their earnings are even lower. Women work in kitchen, rear children, care for elders, collect fuel and fodder, transport water from distant places, work in the fields , serve as domestic labour etc. If all of this work is taken into account, 88% of rural housewives and 66% of urban housewives can be considered as economically productive. This work is not visible and not recognised as productive for the simple reason that it does not bring in any revenue.

Women make up one third of the labour force. Women workers’ exploitation has been reported since historical times. Women used to be employed as wine servers and spies to get secrets of the drunkards. The census in India is collecting information on the basis of economically productive work and thus a huge chunk of house hold work performed by women is not considered productive. Women shoulder the burden of unpaid and unrecognised housework. The irony is that in 2001 census data 81.3% of all women workers belonged to occupational category of farmers, fisherwomen, loggers and weavers etc. Only 3.9% women were found as professionals and other white collar workers. Sales work related workers accounted for 1.4% respectively. It had come to the notice of Justice A.K Ganguly that many housewives in the census had been clubbed with prostitutes, prisoners and beggars under the economically non-productive category which is shocking news for the women folk.

The low qualification and low skill from the childhood hampers the prospects of women further. Women’s status also depends upon the intangible resources including self-confidence, self worth, information, knowledge and specific skills. A fair and just society only ensures that all individuals should acquire the basic levels of the resources and eliminate the discrimination. Women produce half of world’s food but receive only ten percent of it. As regards women’s unpaid work, it is necessary to have a closer look at the importance of work and its related rewards which are valued in terms of prestige, power and wealth and are determined by the position of the individual in the society. It is the state, society and culture which give women a second rate status - second citizen, second sex and weaker sex status etc. However, women in modern era have crossed all the barriers and ventured into man’s profession.

The statistical profile of women presents a picture of some success and few failures. Women’s contribution in economic development remains unrecognised and undervalued resulting in poor wages and poor working conditions with most of the work force unprotected by any legislation. Political participation of women in national and state level bodies of governance remains an unfulfilled dream. Since 1970s onwards, throughout the world, attention has been drawn towards women’s problems. Understandingly, women’s status cannot be studied within a single discipline and requires a multi-disciplinary approach because of the multiple roles performed by women.

Gender specific roles are socially constructed, inherited and perpetuated which are termed by some as the biological roles of women. Many schools of thought have made it mandatory that women have to perform these roles because of their social structure. Across a cross- section of households, women’s work participation rate is much lower than that of men. Among the poor peasants, artisans and weavers it has been found that there has been an increased uncertainty of women’s employment opportunities overtime. With the introduction of modern technology, avenues of new jobs have become inaccessible for women for their lack of skill and training. These technological changes have no longer been helpful to women but responsible for their displacement form work and lack of entitlement of income. The slogan for equal pay for equal work is yet not being implemented fully and women are continuously discriminated, exploited, paid less and made to work on the traditional tools and equipments and are biased against in any type of monitory incentive. Their working conditions are poor and they are denied the basic amenities at the work place. Women are treated as consumers only and not as producers as their place in the household makes them bound to perform their socially defined roles. Although women enter the labour market in large numbers but their lives and work are defined largely on the basis of division of work. This gendered division of labour makes a good deal of women’s work invisible. In all the societies, the kind of work women do, where, how and under which terms --all are determined to a great extent by the sexual division of labour existing in the society.

According to an estimate, male labourers work for 8.7 hours and a female labourer works for 11.3 hours. Out of these 11.3 hours only 5.7 hours are market work and 5.6 hours are non-market work. Accepted economic activities as per the System of National Accounting (SNA) are extended SNA and non-extended SNA. Household work is regarded as care activity and not as economic activity by the system of national accounting. SNA activities have further been classified into paid and unpaid activities according to which paid SNA activities are largely undertaken by men and women are put in the category of unpaid SNA activity. This unpaid SNA work consumes 51 percent of women’s time, while men contribute only 33 percent of time.

Women are now trying to get themselves trained for entrepreneurship and management. Many women in our society have been successful in running their own enterprises abut still the trend is not a healthy one. Entry into the field of business is not easy but an uphill task for the women of Kashmir. A comparison of the women entrepreneurs of Jammu, and Kashmir Division makes it clear that there are only 212 business units owned and managed by women in Kashmir as compared to 542 units in Jammu Division. Women entrepreneurs in Kashmir have to struggle a lot as they lack the availability of finance, marketing facilities and the social support. They are also overburdened with the performing of domestic activities which does not allow them to enjoy a plenty of time for commercial activities. The overall change has helped women positively but the women have to go a long way to break the glass ceiling.

The policies and practices of the governments regarding the welfare of women have on the whole not proved fruitful because their implementation mostly lies in the hands of men. It is the patriarchal structure of the society, the household and the family setup which is responsible for their poverty. Women’s access to ownership of resources is comparatively less than that enjoyed by their male counter parts. Even among those who own property, control of its use and dispensation vests more often with the male members of the family.

The cosmetic slogan of women empowerment only cannot heal the wounds of the women folk. The need of the hour is to nurse their wounds and a sincere effort to reach out to this invisible working population of the society.

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