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‘Good number of feminist activists emerged in Kashmir in last few years’
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‘Good number of feminist activists emerged in Kashmir in last few years’

Post by on Monday, July 25, 2022

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Dr. Shazia Malik is currently serving as head of Centre for Women Studies and Research, University of Kashmir. In the past, she has worked as Research Officer at State Resource Centre for Women for two years.

She has presented around 30 research papers in national and international seminars/conferences and her 20 papers and articles have got published in various newspapers, magazines and journals of India. Two of her papers have been awarded as best papers presented in 70th and 71st Sessions of Indian History Congress.

She is also an author of a book - Women's Development Amid Conflict in Kashmir: A Socio-Cultural Study. Time and again she has made use of her abilities in writing and social activism.

While talking to Rising Kashmir’s Feature writer, Insha Latief Khan she talks about her interest in the area of study as her primary concern is to investigate the impact of violence on women’s development, and to draw out the differential consequences of violence for men and women. Her current research interests include Women’s Agency and Gender Relations in Oral Traditions and Performative Practices in Kashmir.

How is the Centre for Women Studies and Research, University of Kashmiridentifying women issues?

The role of the centre is to transform the knowledge systems by breaking conventional academic boundaries. Broadly women’s studies not only attempt to identify sources of women’s oppression but it also tries to change the situation of women in a patriarchal set up. Teaching, research, extension activities and advocacy are thrust areas of our centre. We are doing extension activities with tribal women. We visit far flung areas. We are planning to expand such activities and offer them skill enhancement training in their own areas.

Also, the faculty has been doing small research projects in their own capacities with university or other major bodies who give some funds and we carry on research on major issues like domestic violence, issues of marginalized women of Kashmir with special focus on Hanji women and tribal women.

Women can be working or homemakers, married or unmarried, poor or rich, our issues are different and that is something which is being deeply discussed by the women studies forums. We try to bifurcate the categories into class, caste, regional and try to see their issues and concerns separately. We also do workshops on menstrual health, health and hygiene, gender sensitizations, sexual harassments, mental health issues of women etc.

What courses are offered by the centre? What new courses are coming up?

We offer a full-fledged Masters Programme in gender studies, which has courses on major feminist perspectives and theories, contemporary global and Indian feminist issues, linkages of feminism with disabilities, religion, peace and conflict, media, capitalism etc.  Centre also offers a certificate course on ‘Women and Law’. Till now, two batches of PG gender studies have been given degrees. Moreover, the centre has been offering eight open and generic electives for the students of other departments since 2017.

Our students have been placed in good NGOs, universities and other government functionaries related to women’s development. In the coming future, we will start Ph. D program also. We are at it.

Since you have taken the charge as head of the centre, what are your concerns?

My basic concern is to develop and restructure the curriculum so that new challenges for women can be identified. The goal is to frame the curriculum in such a way that we understand political science, literature, linguistics, history, economics, anthropology, science and technology and other major disciplines through feminist perspectives. I believe the issues at global level converge with the issues of women so we have to think that way.

We also have generic and open electives from other departments. They have other major courses but they chose one subject from our centre. Those students are more important to me. The courses should sanitize the students from other departments who can break the chain of bad attitude towards women and as citizens be good towards women which is my aim to attain.

Channelling the power of collaborations in Research and extension activities is our major tool to bring about changes in the status quo. Women’s studies is something which has a large ambit. We are looking for recognized NGOs and activists who have worked on women centric issues. We want direct collaboration with government organizations, collaborations with other academic departments like science and biology. We often talk about the distinction between sex and gender but very few people from science contribute to this debate. People from other departments should join hands with us so that we can work together in dealing with women’s issues.

In Kashmir a good number of feminist activists emerged in last few years, but their campaigns have largely been ineffective. I believe if activism is not connected to us then we will not be able to build theoretical understandings. This is beneficial for them as well. They will need women's studies to know how to deal with women’s oppression. Unless there is no link, it’s impossible to do something for women. Linkages are very important.

As far as research in the field of women studies is concerned, how much is your focus on it?

As women we may belong to different cultures, and atmospheres, we need to have our own theories and concepts. In order to achieve such excellence, the center needs to focus on research-oriented work. Though we have been able to carry out some small research, the center lacks enough resources to do well in this area due to restricted flow of funding towards all women’s studies centers in India.

Further our focus is also on formulating a state level policy for women.  The policies that the state makes as of now for women doesn’t work satisfactorily. We still don’t have a shelter home for women. It's only on paper. So, our centre can work on these things and provide the government with data and suggestions about the policies. They may implement such policies which would be informed with the real ground situations.

Things have to change and now we have an honorable female Vice Chancellor, now we are hopeful that things will change. There will be more authority given to the centre and the women issues of the other departments will be highlighted.

What problems do you have to face while reaching your goals?

Though women's studies has a lot of scope. Majority have problems with the name of the centre. They are hesitant in getting associated with it because of the presence of name women in the nomenclature of the centre.  Call it gender studies or women studies, it's the same because when we talk about women, it's automatically talking about men too. I would want to retain the word women because it shows the presence of women as women are important stakeholders.

Another thing is women centers across India are facing the problem that people don’t give enough recognition to it as a discipline. It is not taken as other disciplines like social sciences.

How are you getting engaged with the younger lot in changing the attitude of people towards women?

UGC has asked universities to nominate gender champions. We have to choose students from colleges and universities who will play the role of gender champions and work on various women related issues and create awareness. Gender Champions are expected to facilitate an enabling environment within the university/colleges where girls are treated with dignity and respect. We sensitize these champions and they will be the ambassadors in the future. Every year a lot will be selected. When they leave their institutions, they will be sensitized enough and contribute in transforming the society.

In the coming future, what other things will be offered by the centre?

We are introducing a compulsory course paper on Gender Sensitization for the students of all the departments of our university, as recommended by NAAC 2019.

With New Education Policy, gender studies will be in colleges also as major/minor subjects that will also make an impact. The more students will study it, the more improvement we will see in the situations of women.

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