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India: Against All Odds Nazima Scripts a Success Story

India: Against All Odds Nazima Scripts a Success Story

With recognition of her social work by the people at last, the road has never been so smooth for Nazima, who at one time was castigated by her own fellow beings calling her a Kafir and a blot among Muslim women in society.

‘Although, my work has been started recognising by the people, there was a time when I used to suffer a lot even to the extent of expelling and ex-communicating me from the society’, recalled Nazima, a pioneering Muslim woman activist, who has worked against all odds for the betterment of the status of Muslim women in the society.

When she started her activism, people of her locality in Santhel area used to cast aspersion on her saying that she was out to tarnish the image of Muslim women as a whole and what she was doing was in violation of the tenets of Islam.

And after a joint public meeting, she was finally expelled from the locality for sometime.

‘Those days, whenever there is loud speaker playing in my locality, I fear that people would start talking about me’, Nazima said. Not led down by such negative campaigns against her activism, Nazima continued to work for the betterment of the Muslim women not only in their economic condition and health care but also to rehabilitate women victims of domestic crimes and violence in Muslim society. As a result of her effort, a shelter home for destitute Muslim women has been establish today and over six self help groups (SHGs) for Muslim women have been set up.

Born in 1972 in the family of Naziruddin and Pirarjan at Santhel, a Muslim dominated village located about 30 kms from Imphal along Mayai Lambi, Nazima is the third daughters of nine siblings, six daughters and three sons.

Starting right from her own family, Nazima had faced gender discrimination in terms of getting education facility.

In spite of that she insisted on going to school and studied up to matriculation.

After matriculation, Nazima was not allowed by her family members to continue her study.

The reasons given being attainment of marriageable age and she may become an objection of ridicule and lust of wayward male colleagues in the college and lastly, the family has no money at all to sponsor education of any girl child.

Interestingly, her father was headmaster of a school.

Due to family pressures, Nazima entered into wedlock at a tender age just after passing matriculation.

However, not long after her marriage, she was chased out from her husband’s house by her in-laws on alleged ground of not bringing enough dowry.

Some years after that, Nazima got married again to another man.

Now 35 years of age, Nazima is a proud mother of five children, two sons and three daughters.

Her eldest son is now 13 years old and the youngest 4 years.

Nazima had been very inquisitive and sensitive to the problems of Muslim women in the society since early age.

She used to asked many questions like why Muslim girls are being forced to early marriage and reducing them to a mere child-bearing machine, why most of the Muslim women are being ill-treated by their husbands and mothers-in-laws and what is the reason behind the low standard of education among the Muslim women.

‘I started getting answers to all these questions after I got married’, Nazima said.

Reprising how she started her activism, Nazima said that after she returned to her maternal place, she mobilised some of her local friends and started a kind of Marup (association) in which each member take out a handful of rice before cooking every day and contributed the same so that the amount that could be fetched from selling the rice quantity thus collected for the month can be utilised in helping the Muslim women to read and wrote.

This way around 20 Muslim women have been made literate.

From this humble beginning, Nazima and her friends went on to forming similar self help groups (SHGs) one after another.

With the success of these SHGs, Nazima and her friends were able to generate some capital which help them in expanding their activities and it led to formation of an association called the All Santhel Women Development Association.

The Association was registered in 2003.Side by side, Nazima also started educating children specially young girls who could not go to school.

It was around this time that some of the Muslim bigots started raising voice against the activities of Nazima dubbing her a Kafir who is out to mislead the Muslim women.

Objections have also been raised against formation of more self help groups (SHGs).

Undeterred by her detractors, Nazima and her association for the first time took up the case related to ill-treatment of a young married woman for not bringing enough dowry at Laphupat Tera.

With more and more such cases including domestic violence, rape and molestation were brought to the notice of the Association, Nazima needs to go out from house most of time to consult the family members of the victims, other like minded social organisations as well as to counsel the victims.

She also need to frequent the police stations to lodge complaints over such cases.

Unfortunately, some religious bigots and some people in her locality were sceptical of her work and condemned her as a woman of loose moral who do not respect purdah and working against the tenets of Muslim religion.

After a signature campaign, Nazima was expelled from her locality for 15 days in January of 2006. All the people have also been given strict warning against communicating with her if she continues with her activities.

Cornered from all sides, Nazima said that she had thought of giving up her work.

However, she could not on seeing the plight of many Muslim women who have suffered injustice in their lives.

After Nazima was expelled from her locality, a big debate was issued among the Muslim community of the State.

A mass meeting attended by representatives of United Manipur Muslim Women Development Organisation, All Manipur Muslim Organisation and many religious leaders was held on June 27, 2006.The meeting resolved that Nazima can continue with her activities provided she respects certain norms including observing purdah strictly and not going around or getting along with other male colleagues in suspicious manner.

It was like a half a battle won for Nazima.

At one time, Nazima had to speak from behind the purdah and the stage, if at all she was to address a public meeting.

But today, she shared the dais with other religious leaders.

She does not face harassment from any quarters while going to police station to lodge complaint in connection with any case.

With public support and help, a shelter home for destitute Muslim women has been set up and over 100 cases related to crimes and violence against women have been taken up and settled.

She has also been elected as the secretary of Organisation for Women and the suspicion of her husband has become a thing of the past.

Nazima said, ‘I wish to take up more developmental works for women.

The Government should also ensure proper implementation of the Domestic Violence Act and the police ought to do their duties’.

Source: The Sangai Express / Ng Liklaileima – 18 April 2008

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