International Women’s day is celebrated on 08, March, every year throughout the world. This concept came into being more than a 100 years back, in 1909, in the United Nations when the Socialist Party of America designated the day to honour the 1908 Garments Workers Strike in New York. Working women protested in this strike against their deplorable working conditions. With time, the day got recognized by the United Nations as an occasion to acknowledge the contribution and achievements to women to humanity and society. It is also dedicated to the cause of furthering gender equality for women.
The Charter of the United Nations (UN), signed in 1945, was the first international agreement to affirm the principle of equality between women and men. Since then, the UN has helped create a historic legacy of internationally agreed to strategies, standards, programmes and goals to advance the status of women worldwide. The movement has been strengthened by four global United Nations women's conferences that have raised the flag for women's rights and their wholesome participation in the political and economic arenas. Women are now seen by the UN to be equal partners in achieving sustainable development, peace and security with full respect for their contribution. The empowerment of women continues to be a central feature of the UN's efforts to address social, economic and political challenges across the globe while also looking into the most significant aspect their rights.
This year the theme chosen for Women’s Day is “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change.” The objective will be to advance the cause of gender equality and full empowerment of women and girls across the world. #BalanceforBetter is being projected as the hash tag for the ushering of a gender balanced world.
Kashmir women have been known to play a very significant role in the affairs of society. Among them have been mystics and queens revered by the people and looked upon as role models even to this day. Modern Kashmir women are acquiring education and skills that would propel them into the highest arenas of professionalism and achievement. Education levels are surging ahead and so is the accomplishment threshold.
The high place accorded to women in society is the outcome of the enlightened Sufi culture that has remained intrinsic to the region for centuries and in which an equal, even exalted status for women is ordained. The women empowerment that the modern world envisages has remained ingrained in Kashmir society since times immemorial.
There are innumerable instances today of Kashmiri women excelling in a diverse fields within the government and in the civil stream. They can be found in professional services like banking, medicine, engineering, etc., and in areas like sports where they are reaching great heights. Sports and jobs apart, there are many Kashmiri women branching out as entrepreneurs and giving the male businessmen in the field a run for their money. Such achievements, despite the unfavourable environment created by insurgency and violence, adds a unique feather in their caps. Kudos is also due to the Kashmir families that are allowing the women to find their wings under such difficult circumstances.
The biggest challenge to the Kashmir women is from the fundamentalist thought process that is gaining traction. The attempt to change the enlightened Sufi culture into one aligned with such religious concepts that are alien to the region and its people are being made. While the world is moving ahead to achieve unprecedented and visionary social transformations, conflict-ridden areas like Kashmir are being compelled into regressing to a medieval era, after having been in the forefront of the gender equality paradigm as a society.
It is well known that progress of a civilisation is dependent upon the women. Educated and aware women in the house are invariably instrumental in the upbringing of enlightened and conscious future generations leading to development and prosperity of the society. Kashmiri women, in particular, have a leading role to play in weaning away the youth from self destructive ignorance. They alone can show the path of moderation based on principles of religious tolerance, freedom, justice and righteousness. It, therefore, becomes even more important to protect women from the malaise of fundamentalism that attempts to wrest from them the rights that they have been accorded by the society as intrinsic to the culture of the land. An inability to do so would spell doom not only for the women but also for the Kashmiri civilisation as a whole.
It is in such testing times that the courage and commitment of a civilisation comes to the fore. History has given to the women of Kashmir a unique strength, they have the capacity face adverse circumstance and emerge victorious, this inherent capacity of theirs can turn around the situation in Kashmir. Will Kashmir allow the regression or will it stand by its brave and courageous women who have remained the pillars of the society and its development through the ages?
Let the Women’s Day be an occasion to celebrate the spirit of the Kashmiri woman who refuse do get cowed down by adverse circumstances. Let the theme of “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change,’ apply itself in all measure to these courageous women most of all. Empowering the Kashmiri women in right measure can well be a harbinger for the much needed change that the trouble torn region needs.