Jamila Nishat: Waging a battle against social evils, child marriages
As gender equality seems to be a distant dream in the patriarchal society that we live in; here is a woman who has been working for the progress of girl child education by waging a fight against patriarchy, child abuse, domestic abuse, incest, dowry system and various social evils prevalent among Muslim minorities in the Old City of Hyderabad.
Hyderabad: As gender equality seems to be a distant dream in the patriarchal society that we live in; here is a woman who has been working for the progress of girl child education by waging a fight against patriarchy, child abuse, domestic abuse, incest, dowry system and various social evils prevalent among Muslim minorities in the Old City of Hyderabad.
Jamila Nishat (60) was born in a middle-class Muslim family having moderate values. Having grown-up in a composite culture of Hyderabad, she had realized very early in her life that there was an urgent need to address the issue of communal disharmony between Hindus and Muslims polarized by politics of the day.
After completing her Masters in Arts program from the prestigious Osmania University, she started her work in Sultan Shahi area of the iconic Charminar. She began teaching English to young Muslim girls in the old city and started advocating the need for education to progress in life.
She also took up marriage and sexual issues among young girls and started educating girls about them. Well, this didn’t go well with the conservative Muslims in the old city area. Despite facing stiff resistance from the conservative households, she continued with her efforts relentlessly by convincing the parents and youth in the area.
As her efforts started bearing fruits, she started her fight against social evils like domestic abuse, incest and young Muslim girls being married to Arab shaiks (known as Muta marriage which was very common in Sultan Shahi area). Most of the men in old city feel beating women as a privilege they are entitled to. She fought against this patriarchal mindset and saved many girls from domestic abuse, dowry and violence.
She has built a non-violent army of young girls who are volunteering in ‘Shaheen Women’s Collective,’ the organization she had started in 2002 to take her cause forward. These young volunteers visit houses of girls being subjected to domestic abuse and dowry harassment by their husband’s families, rescue them and send them to rehabilitation centres after giving them counselling. The organization has also filed more than a thousand cases against individuals and families violating women and girl children’s rights in the old city.
Her volunteers were attacked by women and men in the old city. Workers of a political party who claim to be standing-up for the rights of Muslim Minorities have also attacked her on a Friday. Even Fatwa was issued against her organization. Despite the challenges ‘Shaheen’ kept sparking the minds of a young generation which is thirsty for a socio-economic transformation of the Muslim community.
“Life is all about challenges and the challenges our organization has to face is not much different,” she said, speaking with The Hans India. In one of the most daring sting operations conducted in the old city on ‘Muta Marriages,’ the volunteers of Shaheen caught several culprits red-handed and brought them to justice, saving many young girls.
Recently, Jamila also organized a rally on ‘triple-talaq’ issue at Charminar, where young Muslim girls formed a human chain around the iconic heritage structure on the occasion of International Women’s Day. Her literary journey is as interesting as her activism. She wrote her first Urdu poem in 1970 and continues to write till date. Many of her literary works have been published in leading newspapers, national and international seminars.
She was awarded with ‘Makhdoom Mohiuddin Award’ for her contribution to Urdu literature and has also been given the ‘Devi Award’ for her gallantry work to protect women’s rights. “Girls need to be strong enough and need to be assertive so that we can stand against all-odds,” she said, when asked what her message was for the young generation of old city Muslims. Please visit www.shaheencollective.org to know and support her cause.
By Dr Abbas Mohammad