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  • Subhashini ali, president aidwa
    AIDWA s NATIONAL CONVENTION OF MUSLIM WOMEN - Ayesha Kidwai, Subhashini Ali On the 27th of August, more than eight hundred Muslim women along with their
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1, 2008
      - Ayesha Kidwai, Subhashini Ali

      On the 27th of August, more than eight hundred Muslim women along with
      their other AIDWA sisters gathered at Mavalankar Hall, New Delhi. They
      came from Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, West Bengal, UP, MP,
      Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujerat, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Assam,
      Jharkhand, Bihar, Maharashtra and Orissa to participate in the AIDWA
      National Convention of Muslim Women; they came to demand recognition
      as equal citizens and equal access to amenities like education, health
      as well as employment; they came to demand freedom from fear; they
      came to demand an end to communal violence.

      Inaugurating the convention, AIDWA President Subhashini Ali said that
      the Convention was a culmination of a decade of AIDWA's sustained
      efforts in mobilizing and organising Muslim women on a wide range of
      issues that they themselves articulated in conventions and meetings
      that were organized, over these years, in areas, at block and district
      and state levels all over the country. This effort was the result of
      AIDWA's understand that while all women were unequal, different
      sections of women experienced differing levels of inequality,
      injustice and discrimination. Women belonging to Dalits and Adivasi
      communities and religious minorities belonged to these sections and
      any movement for equality had to pay special attention to their
      demands and to the necessity of bringing them into the organization in
      large numbers and letting them emerge as leaders and activists. The
      Sacchar Committee's observations about the social, educational and
      economic backwardness of the Muslim community had only vindicated
      AIDWA's understanding that the State had a major role to play in the
      betterment of the socio-economic of Indian Muslims. This Convention
      was therefore organized to assert that the advancement of the status
      of Muslim women was not the sole responsibility of the Muslim
      community alone, and that governments at the State and specially the
      Central level had to assume responsibility for this.

      Anwara Meerza, Vice-President of AIDWA, placed the Charter of Demands
      which included:
      (1) preparation of a sub-plan, with an allocation of 15% of the
      Annual Budget for the targeted development of the Muslim community,
      especially in wards/bocks/districts with large Muslim populations, and
      for an equitable allocation under this sub-plan for specific schemes
      aimed at advancing the Muslim women of our country.
      (2) recognition of, and support to Muslim minority educational
      institutions, with the provision of an equitable number of seats for
      Muslim girls, as well as scholarships for them.
      (3) provision of 15% of bank loans to Muslims in priority, commercial
      and business sectors must be guaranteed with the assurance that Muslim
      women get their fair share of these loans; credit facilities for
      SHGs, craftswomen and women involved in petty trade and commerce;
      training centres for skill upgradation for both traditional and other
      work; provision of marketing network
      (4) reservation for Dalit and OBC Muslims with adequate representation
      for Muslim women must be implemented; similarly a quota for Muslims
      within the OBC quota must be ensured;
      (5) timely justice and adequate compensation on the lines provided to
      the 1984 Sikh victims to be provided to victims of communal violence;
      implementation of the recommendations of the Srikrishna Commission
      Report and other reports on communal; effective Central legislation to
      curb communal violence; measures to curb terrorism should not
      legitimise the harassment of innocent Muslims.

      This was followed by 4 sessions, the first `Women and Work' had
      speakers who were themselves home-based workers and members of SHGs
      involved in productive work. Zarina Khursheed, President UP State
      AIDWA, introduced the subject most eloquently describing the
      back-breaking and soul-destroying work that poor Muslim women do
      barely feed their families. Naseem, a bead-worker from Delhi, spoke
      of how she as a divorced woman was forced to work 12 hours a day for
      20/- for the last 20 years. But she did not forget to add that hers
      was a common story in the area in which she lived. Malka from Lucknow
      said that zardozi work was more ill-paid today than it had been 10
      years ago and this was a reflection of the growing desperation of poor
      Muslim women. Mujiba from Karnataka told the Convention that when she
      and her children worked for 10 hours, they were able to roll 1000
      beedis for which they would get 25/-. She said that of a total of 8
      lac beedi workers, only 3 lacs were registered. The rest enjoyed no
      benefits, no security and did not receive minimum wages. Rehana from
      Maharashtra, Manwara Ahmed from Assam and Rehana from Tripura all
      spoke about the difference that SHGs had made to the lives of poor
      women but there were significant differences in their experiences.
      While Rehana and Manwara said that SHGs with Muslim women members in
      their States were few and far between and they faced difficulties in
      getting them registered and opening bank accounts and it was only
      their persistence and the intervention of AIDWA that had succeeded in
      Maharashtra, in their successfully getting
      involved in the production of agarbattis and packaging of cashews
      which has improved their living conditions. The Tripura experience was
      one of a proliferation of SHGs, encouraged by the Left-Front Govt. and
      engaged in a large number of productive activities ranging from
      handicrafts to fisheries and poultry farms. A common point mentioned
      by all the speakers was that their becoming part of the AIDWA had
      contributed immensely to their self-confidence and also to their
      becoming involved in the problems of other women.

      The second session on the Denial of Citizenship Rights was introduced
      by Sehba Farooqui, Secretary of the Delhi State AIDWA, who spoke about
      the harsh reality of Muslims being reduced to second-class citizens in
      parts of the country. Shakeela from Gujerat recounted her horrific
      account of her own experience of the Gujerat riots. She said that her
      bustee was surrounded by the police who started firing into the homes.
      She and her son received bullet wounds. While she was wounded in the
      chest and is still to fully recover, his head was split open and he is
      now half-paralysed. She said that they have spent every penny they
      had on his treatment but cannot afford to do anymore for him. Till
      today, even their FIRs have not been recorded. Naseem from Jaipur
      made a forceful speech condemning the way in which poor Muslims are
      being humiliated and harassed in the wake of the bomb blasts. She
      said `the bomb blasts are inhuman. Killing women and children who are
      completely innocent is totally unacceptable. But herding poor people
      out of their homes, bulldozing their huts, keeping them in thanas and
      jails without food and water cannot be the answer. We want to know
      why we are being treated like this.' Finally, Hajra Begum from Madhya
      Pradesh told the story of how Priyanka and Umar, two educated adults
      who got married in the court faced the wrath of the Bajrang Dal, the
      police and the Madhya Pradesh Govt. along with their family members.
      Not only were Umar and his family charged with `abduction' but the
      Bajrang Dal issued a fatwa which was then implemented by the police
      that no Hindu girls should drive their scooters with dupattas on their
      heads because this was a sign that they were about to elope with
      Muslim boys. AIDWA successfully opposed this and Hajra herself was
      instrumental in helping the young couple. But their insecurity is
      still so great that they could not attend the Convention even though
      they wanted to. A speech by Teesta Setalvad concluded the session.

      The second half of the Convention was presided over by P.K. Zainaba,
      AIDWA Vice-President. The third session on Violence was introduced by
      Maimoona Mullah who decried the fact that Muslim women face violence
      not only outside their homes but within them from family members and
      from self-styled community and religious `leaders'. Najma from Orissa
      narrated her painful experience: in a drunken state, her husband
      pronounced `talaq' thrice but, when he sobered up he did not even
      remember this and continued living with her and their children.
      Community leaders, however, intervened and after assaulting him and
      humiliated Najma's father who was publicly beaten with a `chappal',
      forced them to separate. They insisted that Najma would have to
      undergo `halala' i.e. marry another man, live with him, then obtain a
      divorce from him and then marry her husband again. Najma flatly
      refused. With the help of AIDWA, she fought her case upto the Supreme
      Court and now lives with her husband and children and has become an
      AIDWA activist. Kaifi from Delhi who is an educated young woman spoke
      of the dowry harassment she faced from her husband and his family.
      Her misery was compounded when she delivered a baby girl and was
      abandoned by them in the hospital and subsequently divorced. Her
      parents were no more but she received the support of AIDWA. Her
      poverty resulted in the death of her baby girl, something she can
      never forget but today she is running a small beauty parlour and
      fending for herself and her sister – and also working with and
      fighting for other womens' rights. Razia from Lucknow was divorced by
      her husband from Saudi Arabia over the telephone. The fact that he
      was now earning better than before made him greedy for a handsome
      dowry. She came in touch with AIDWA and with its help negotiated with
      the Sharai Adalat to get compensation from her husband for herself and
      her little daughter and is now working as an activist and also in the

      The final session, Negotiating the Public Sphere, illustrated the
      experiences of Muslim women as elected representatives and in public
      struggles. Albina Shakeel, Jt. Secy. Of Delhi State AIDWA introduced
      the session and spoke of the courage that Muslim women display in
      entering the public domain, facing family and community opposition.
      Qamar from Andhra Pradesh spoke of the land mafia in Hyderabad who
      belong to a political party that claims to defend the rights of
      Muslims but actually ensures that they live in the most inhuman
      conditions, paying huge rentals to them. She said that when she heard
      that there was a struggle for house-sites in which AIDWA was taking
      part, she decided to join it. She said that from someone who was
      afraid to go out of her home, she became someone who went to jail for
      8 days without any fear. Jahan Ara from West Bengal, a panchayat
      leader, and Saleekha from Kerala, an MLA whose constituency has only
      30% Muslims, spoke about their entry into electoral politics despite
      much opposition. They spoke of their experiences and achievements in
      fighting for and implementing programmes and schemes for the benefit
      of poor women, including Muslims and said that the 33% reservation for
      women Bill must be passed because that would give other Muslim women
      the opportunity to enter the electoral and political sphere. Fehmida
      from Tamil Nadu spoke about the role of Jama'ats which usually gave
      anti-women decisions in all the domestic and marital conflicts that
      they `resolved' but she said, when she and other AIDWA activists
      intervened they could force the Jama'ats to be sensitive to the
      womens' rights also.

      After this, Mariam Dhawale, Gen. Secy. Maharashtra State AIDWA, spoke
      in support of the Charter of Demands. She said that women would not
      be satisfied with empty promises made at the time of elections but
      would fight for these demands to be met.

      Summing up the day's proceedings, Brinda Karat, MP said that it was
      AIDWA's conviction that woman's movement must raise the issues of
      different groups of women like Dalits, Muslims, tribals etc. This
      could not be seen as the responsibility of members of those
      communities alone. She appealed for solidarity with the oppressed
      women in Iraq and Afghanistan, who were under attack from imperialism
      and also with the suffering women of Kashmir who experiencing endless
      curfew and conflict. She charged the Govt. of India with collusion
      with imperialism and said that while it claimed that it lacked the
      funds to implement the Sachar Committee recommendations it was
      planning to spend billions of dollars on imported nuclear reactors.

      Sudha Sundararam, National General Secretary of AIDWA, concluded the
      convention with an inspiring vote of thanks and a reiteration of
      AIDWA's commitment to the united struggle for justice for Muslim
      women. For everyone there, the participation in the Convention of
      hundreds of women from every corner of the country and the commonality
      of their suffering and resistance was an inspiration and an impetus
      for more determined and more united struggles. And this found
      enthusiastic expression in the slogans that echoed in the hall as the
      convention ended: Hum sab Ek hain! (We are One!) and AIDWA Zindabad!
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