By Tahmeena Rizvi
The valley of Kashmir which is also known as the literal ‘Heaven on Earth’ has seen very few, small spells of peace in between war, violence, and multitudes of efforts from the rest of the world to ‘own’ it, a lot of it due to its strategic geographic position. Despite that, the Kashmiris have stood strong, and in the midst of all the havoc, its women have played a large part which often goes unheard. Women of Kashmir have always dealt with a lot of hurdles in each circle of life. They were oppressed in their own family. Women in customary Kashmiri society were completely reliant upon the male individuals from their family, because of which they couldn’t build up their very own character, and their reliance brought down their status both socially and financially. Indeed, even women who had a place with the upper social class were not permitted to accomplish any expert work as it was viewed as underneath their high status. Now with the coming change, women in Kashmir have started to step out. Women have started to look for freedom and to break the shackles of universality, to expand their vision beyond the outskirts of patriarchy. Today, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has given the country thousands of hardworking women who have reached the pinnacle of success.Stuck in agony and trauma due to decades of violence, the women in Kashmir are off late-breaking stereotypes and smashing the patriarchy. What makes their stories more endearing is their journeys were replete with obstacles which they overcame successfully. Their dogged determination to succeed propelled them to march ahead and inspire everyone they met on their way.Facing all the challenges in an uncertain atmosphere, many women activists prefer to work silently while serving people irrespective of faith and belief. These activists have become the voice of the people, trying their best to bring about socio-political changes in the valley. After generations, women are no longer passive victims, but have become agents of change. Today, we have numerous such examples who have achieved epitome of success hailing from this land: ACP Dr. Ruveda Salam who is a woman of many titles – a doctor, an Indian Police Services Officer at the post of Assistant Commissioner of Police, and a motivational speaker.ACP Dr Ruveda Salam has held many titles under her belt. She also has the achievement of having cleared the UPSC exam not once, but twice, apart from being an MBBS! Captain Sami Ara Surury who earned her CPL (Commercial Pilot License) in the year 1994 and is the first Kashmiri woman to have earned the license to fly commercial planes.Capt. Ara had to fight her way to where she is today, going well against the wishes of her own family who wanted her to get an MBBS, become a doctor and settle quietly in life. From applying and succeeding in getting a job as a cabin crew, to becoming a commercial pilot, it was a strenuous journey for the simple Kashmiri girl, with less than required financial resources during the turbulence which was taking place in the Valley in 1987. She is presently 48 and an Airbus pilot – an inspiration to all those young women who dream and aim to fly high! Dr. Nyla Ali Khan who is an eminent author and an academician, has published four books, including her most noteworthy book, Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir: Between Indian and Pakistan, mainly discussing the plight of the women of her homeland Jammu and Kashmir, focussing heavily on the political issues and strife.Dr Nyla Khan is the first Kashmiri woman to be accepted as a member of the Advisory Council for the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women in 2015. She is a Visiting Professor at the University of Oklahoma and Rose State College. Nidhi Razdan Hailing from Badgam, Central Kashmir, Ms. Razdan is a journalist and TV personality who is well known for being the primary anchor on NDTV 24X7 for its news show, Left, Right and Centre.Nidhi Razdan has received many awards and recognition for excellence in journalism, including Teacher’s Achievement Award (TAA) for Communication (Electronic Journalism), Ramnath Goenka Award for Excellence in Journalism and The Jammu and Kashmir State Government Award for Excellence in Journalism. Shamma Jain, an Indian IFS officer and Indian Ambassador to Greece (since 2017) joined the Indian Foreign Services in the year 1983.She had been the Indian Ambassador to Panama and Ivory Coast, during the Ivorian Civil War in 2011; when her own residence was attacked by armed mercenaries, she did not shy from completing her duties, and was later safely evacuated by the French troops. Ufra Mir who is the first and the only Peace Psychologist active in the Valley, who is working in the direction of providing help to the women victims of the Kashmir conflict. She uses various methods of expressive therapy, including creative writing, storytelling, and art therapy to help people heal, using their pain to express in creative ways.She has also worked with the US Department of Peace (USA), World Economic Forum (India), Nobel Peace Prize forums (USA) and the Swedish Institute (Sweden), among other prestigious organisations. Mehvish Mushtaq is a computer engineer from Srinagar and the creator of the Dial Kashmir android application. For this app which would be useful to both the natives and the tourists, she has been honoured by many awards and accolades, including Nari Shakti Puraskar in 2018.Mehvish Mushtaq is an inspiration to all those young girls who want to carve a niche for themselves in the field of technology and contribute to the development of their homelands. Tajamul Islam The story of this little eleven year old is one that is filled with bravery, perseverance and hope.She has represented India and won the much coveted World Kickboxing Championship that was organised in Italy in the year 2016, all at the young age of seven. Apart from being a kickboxer, she also excels at Taekwondo and Wushu. Dr. Sharmeen Mushtaq is the first woman participant in the Gulmarg Snow Car Rally 2018.She is a trained medical officer and a motor sport enthusiast.For her efforts and inspiring story, she has been nicknamed, ‘The Lady with the Lamp’ For the longest time, the people of the Valley have stayed as outsiders in the eyes of the rest of the country. More so, the women, whose struggles are amplified by the fact that, well, simply that they are women. Even in the face of such adversities, these Kashmiri women achievers have made a name for themselves, have contributed and are still contributing to society. There are women who are stepping into different fields to take their place in active career roles. The women who go on to take up active roles are pleased to be recognised for doing something valuable for their communities. They take pride in the fact that it is not just symbolic but is something really significant, that they are making a meaningful contribution to society. If trained adequately, these women can gradually negotiate their way into creatively dismantling and re-shaping different levels of existing structural violence. These women have proved beyond doubt that despite the violence and damaging circumstances which the land often faces, women have still retained their committed nonviolent approach to facing their fate, almost stoically. They can undoubtedly emerge as leaders with better decision making capacities in difficult times if supported tactically. Kashmiri women can become the medium to further the cause of dialogue amongst religions and regions in their facilitative role as peace leaders and peace keepers.