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.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Better Half

Roshan Ara reminds us that women are playing a pivotal nation building role all around the world

(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.' Until her teaching position is made permanent, Ms. Ara moves from assignment to assignment. She was previously a Lecturer in Commerce, Department of School Education, Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar. Presently she is a Senior Lecturer in Commerce, Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Amirakadal, Srinagar. During leisure time she enjoys reading newspapers & journals, staying engaged on Women's Issues, and writing articles for newspapers & journals.)

World is Not Just Men

Since United Nation’s declaration of the ‘Decade of Women’ in 1975, attention and action on women’s concerns have steadily increased. Due to education, emancipation, women’s movements, globalization and industrialization, women have been able to break the glass ceilings and enter into the world of men. Now women are getting organized at the national as well as international level to fight back and bring an end to the domination of men. Thus, women’s movements and emancipation have been indicators of social change.

Women have to be made equal partners of economic development and welfare. The earliest models of economic growth focused mainly on increasing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) so that it could help in curbing poverty. The economy was a gender blind economy as its concentration was towards men-folk only and women were ignored in the process of development. Backwardness of women folk in any country is the indication of its being poor and underdeveloped .This view of economic growth was re-defined because of many years dismal experience of developing countries.

Women are the dynamic promoters of social transformation. Their participation and influence in governments, families, communities and economy, and the provision of employment is a common good. It will lead to equitable development, stronger families, better services and better child health care and in holistic human development. There will be decrease in maternal deaths, child marriages and improved nutrition and population control. Discrimination in any form reduces efficiency and slows down economic growth. Gender discrimination affects 50% of our population. Being only 50% of population, women contribute to 75% of the development of the country while men contribute only 25%. Unfortunately, women’s vulnerable but laudable roles which cannot be substituted by men or machines have been neglected all together.

The role of women in the process of development has been changing over the years. It is now realized that empowering women for development is a pre-requisite for increased output, greater equality and social progress. Women play a crucial role in the socio-economic development of a country. For a marked social and political change, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia granted their women the right to vote and also permitted them to take part in coming municipal elections. There are few women involved in the political processes throughout the world. Therefore, it is important to examine and understand the gender differences in power within the government and policy making institutions.

The United Nations Atlas of Women in Politics (2000) shows that women comprise only 13.4% of parliament members throughout the world. In the context of Indian Parliament, few women in Lok Sabha mean minimal contribution of women in decision making. A greater number of women in parliament will automatically have a greater say on issues concerning women – gender justice, human rights and other issues on which women on an average have always been more sensitive than men. Women need to be viewed as targets of welfare policies in the social sector. The researchers and activists have put forth their views for forcing women’s perspectives into national politics. The provision for giving women 33% reservation in Parliament is a step towards making women more powerful. Thus political empowerment of women is an attempt not only to make women empowered but also to make them aware and effective as agents of social change.

In industrially developed countries as well as in developing ones, women are still burdened with cumulative inequalities due to discriminatory practices. They play an active but invisible role in the economy of the country by maintaining a family, taking care of future workers, collecting the produce by providing a free labour without any payment. They cook, wash and process the items of consumption by saving and investing family resources. In addition to an individual woman’s autonomy, dignity and equity, there is a need for support structure by creating alternative options for them. The status of women, their opportunity to employment, their illiteracy and subjugation to men are a negation of the promise of equality. She is still a victim of rape, dowry, trafficking, eve teasing and many other crimes. Women have been suppressed for ages through social sanctions. In all the societies, men were considered primary income earners, enjoying a priority over women in allocation of opportunities for productive work and remunerative jobs. But men were unaware of this fact that their paid work is often the result of joint production, much of which may not be possible if women didn’t stay at home looking after the home affairs and caring for children. Thus women can become more powerful through collective reflection and decision making, building a positive self image and developing ability to think critically. They can foster decision making and action and ensure equal participation in the process of bringing about a social change.

Gender equality should not be misunderstood as a fight between men and women but cooperation and mutual understanding between the two sexes. An equal amount of authority and power between men and women will irradiate imbalance in the society and lead to a parallel and balanced society.

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