Workshop on Capacity building and leadership development of Muslim women

‘Workshop on Capacity building and leadership development of Muslim women for owning and managing resources

July 11th-12th 2007, Lucknow, UP India

 

The prologue

More than 15000 women in my village do not have any right on land; they will work as mere labor force in their own land. So how could we get rights from within the family, when they themselves say ‘what is my husband’s is mine’. Men were selling off land and only small portions of land are left for the community to survive. Now men have cell phones and motor bikes out of the sale of our land.  Women have no say in retaining the family resources and are beaten if they raise questions on the issue.. There is a woman in my village called Angoori whose husband is missing for last 8 years. The piece of land in her husband’s name is the only source of livelihood support for bringing up her three daughters. Angoori has been asking panachayat for transfer of land on her name as she has the possession of this land, but the pradhan says “how can I give land to you? What will I say when your husband returns”.

There are many similar cases in my village where the problem of increasing unemployment and lack of resources for livelihoods is pertinent among the women from Muslim community. We demand these resources from the government. We expect that this workshop will provide us guidance on how to work for the resource rights of these women and train us to lobby with the local authorities and government on the agenda stated Nazma, who works on Muslim Women’s resource rights with Disha Samajik Sanstha in Dhakrani, Uttaranchal

Not only Nazma but more than 50 participants who came to a two day workshop, organized by members of Consult for Women and Land Rights (Bahin and Sathi all for partnerships) with the support of Indo Global Social Service Society in Lucknow with similar expectations and aim of strategizing the road ahead for work on Muslim Women’s Resource Rights.

The workshop:

The workshop began with the welcome note by Ms.Naaz Raza from Bahin where she highlighted the significance or organizing such a workshop in Lucknow and also shared the process of CWLR in addressing the issue of Muslim Women’s Resource Rights. Ms.Samreen Usmani from Sathi All for Partnerships gave the background, objective and expected outcome of the workshop. She said that the focus of the event was to find out as to how we develop leadership among Muslim women on the issue and strategize that their demands not only heard but met. Ms.Naish Hasan from Tahreek provided a perspective on issue of resource rights of Muslim women. Resource rights of any women in any community cannot be seen in isolation but it need to be seen within the over all empowerment and decision making power of the community as a whole and participation of women within it. It was clarified that CWLR also sees women’s resource rights within a continuum of all other rights. This particular workshop was to unpack and understand aspects around resource rights so that links can be worked out subsequently.

Ms.Yasmeen Abrar, Member National Commission for Women delivered the keynote address on the occasion. She stated that it is a great opportunity for the community “We as a group have come together to discuss the issue at National level”. She also suggested that such event can be organized in collaboration with NCW to get the support of the administration. Ms Abrar also shared some details about an NCW initiative named ‘Chalo Gaon ki Ore’ ( walk towards the village” which could link the women at grassroot level to the higher ups leading to prompt action on their petitions.

In the first formal session of the workshop Dr.Sabiha Hussain from Centre for Women and Development Studies, New Delhi discussed at length about the significance of resources for women and the emerging need of talking about Muslim women’s resource rights specifically. She said that resource for Muslim women can come from two sources, one can be under the purview of personal laws and other can be those available as citizen’s rights. She further added that Sachar committee report clearly mentions that more than 70% of Muslim women are home based workers but there is no significant provision for them in the existing schemes of the government. The issues of these women’s are left unaddressed at large. When talking of resource rights we need to ask for budget allocation specifically for economic empowerment of Muslim women.

Ms Sharifa Khanum from Steps Puddukottai Tamil Nadu provided the backdrop of a Muslim women’s organization with a membership of over 15000 women and men which they call “jamat”. The Jamat has leadership of 50 Muslim women who resolve cases of marital discord especially settlement for women’s sustenance. In any such hearing the presence of women in the Jamat is essential to get a balanced perspective in favor of women. They also try to publicize facts like Islam not supporting the prevent practice of dowry. The leadership of this jamat has raised the issue of right of Muslim women to pray in a Mosque and have got land to build the first women Mosque in India. These rights get linked to the political voice that can be developed in the spaces that community and the government will provide to women to share experiences and aspirations. Ms Sharifa Khanum said that “This is the first time I am addressing the issue for resources for Muslim Women in a National Forum. It is important because the violations these women faced in Gujarat riots were not raised enough”. At a state level meeting on Muslim women’s resource rights the women questioned the fact that no figures were shared on the percentage of funds that minority commission spends on women. Infact funds from the commission are returned unspent every year. The excuse given is that Muslim women do not ask for funds and spaces. “This is not true” she said “ During Tsunami rehabilitation women asked for alternate housing and workspaces. These women compromise on basic dignity for want of space as till date they defecate in plastic bags and throw them in the ocean. They have no space to wash and dry sanitary pads this leads to health hazards. ”. The applications for creating space for women do result in women availing opportunities. A simplification of forms and schemes of the government is needed so that women can access resources allocated for their benefit. A one window is needed to explain the scheme to women from educationally backward strata. These issues were raised at a NCW hearing organized by CWLR and the Women Struggle Committee in Chennai last year and this year.

Adding on the aspect of leadership development within the community women Dr.Azra Abidi from Muslim Women’s Forum suggested a strategy applicable at three different levels starting with individual skill building, then trying to seek support at the family level and later seeking support from the community including males, religious leaders etc.

Ms.Tulika Pankaj from NABARD, Lucknow in the next session shared about different schemes at NABARD supporting skill development and training of the women for livelihood programmes. She discussed with the group that they have to form a formal group and associate with some local NGO’s to get the benefits from the current schemes. Ms.Pankaj discussed at length the different channels they can go through in order to get NABARDS assistance. She also distributed the brochures providing information about the schemes and related details. The participants found this session very informative and interesting.

In the last session the participants formulated three different groups and discussed three core agenda related to Muslim Women’s Resource Rights:

1) Problems faced by the women in relation to their resource rights

2) Expectations/support from various stakeholders- government, religious leaders, community, civil society etc

3) Strategies to work ahead.

These groups made presentation on the next day of the workshop, on the basis of which the recommendations attached with this report were drafted by the panelists –Ms.Sherifa Khanam from Steps, Ms.Meera and Sejal Dave from WGWLO and Dr.Sabiha Hussain from CWDS. The recommendations emerging from group discussion is mentioned in the annex 1

Mr.Shakeel, and eminent writer on Urdu reflected on the apathy of the Muslim women across the world saying that toady the Muslim women in the world are going through very great crises at the behest of religion as well as world politics. This is especially true of Iran, Pakistan Bangladesh. Besides that we have pockets in India too where Maulanas are controlling every behavior of women in the community. He emphasized on the need of creating a pressure group within the community to carry forward recommendations from Sachar committee report and look into the possibilities of what women can get out of it. Mr.Shakeel also  suggested on taking the men along in the process as they can add new perceptions and provides strength to the women in carrying the issue forward.

In the next session related to livelihood opportunities women from Warsi Sewa Sadan shared their experience of organizing themselves in groups with the support of IGSSS and starting IGP’S by developing there skills in Zardozi, Dabka ( embroidery work). Ms. Miraj Bano added that today these community women can earn a living upto Rs.2500 a month and support their family. She said that there is no dearth of opportunities for getting loans on east installments for Muslim women. All they need to do is to organize in groups and open a joint bank account.

Ms.Bano  also shared about the constrains faced by the women at initial stage and how difficult it was to bring them out of their homes against the wishes of the male members. She motivated the participant to take similar initiatives by telling about the ways these women dealt with all odds together.

Ms.Manorama Jana, State Coordinator, IGSSS Lucknow reviewed the work of these women and said that it was heartening to see their progress over a period of time. She further added that IGSSS aims to support the community women towards empowerment in all aspects from socio-economic to political sphere.  Woman identity as farmer needs to be presented and their skills to sustain it must be upgraded to make tem socially productive.

Group Exercise-Day 2

The group discussion on second day was focused on looking at some livelihood programs which can be initiated for strengthening the resource base of Muslim women in there areas. Lots of discussion went around the work, skills, capacity, and resources needed for such an initiative. Some key outcomes came in the form of willingness by the participants for following up these proposals in their areas:

1) Participants from Saharanpur, UP discussed about the possibility of organizing a group of women together for Income Generation Programs like embroidery work, polishing of wooden showpieces, etc. They volunteered to follow up with local officer of NABARD and avail the existing schemes for training and capacity building of these women there focus seemed to be of developing women as entrepreneurs rather than laborers.

2) Women from Dhakrani (Uttaranchal) who have already been actively involved in  working towards land and resource rights of Muslim women in their area also presented their way ahead of forming SHG’s and involving them in IGP’s like soft toy making, herbal plantation etc. They also shared in group the fact that some NGO’s have already provided training t the community women in soft toy making but have really not bothered to follow-up after that.  This provides them an opportunity to take on the work from the point where they left.

4) Dr.Masuma from Aligarh Muslim University shared the idea of a study on with the support of the university

5) Similarly other groups from Jaunpur (UP), Lucknow (UP), Gujrat and Madhya Pradesh

committed to approach institutions like NABARD, Minority Corporation and National Minority Development Finance Corporation for initiating IGP’S with Muslim women’s groups in their areas.

Following up the process with these groups is an important task for the next six months to ensure that at least some of these proposed initiatives see the light of the day and act as important channel of strengthening the resource base for these women.

In the last session on looking at the way ahead for taking this work forward discussions were held around the strategies and responsibilities of the stakeholders in the process.

The most important issue which came out of this was the need to organize and recognize the individual work as a state level lobby group . The participant needs to work towards building a common state agenda of WRRA and take it forward.  Responding to the concern regarding limited resources, Ms.Naish Hasan suggested to use RTI for retrieving relevant information about women’s access and control over resources from different departments, specially Wakf board and then take lobby initiatives based on the findings.

The group further explored the possibility of taking the recommendations to the government and leaders for their response. In this effect some organizations in UP committed to take it to Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and lobby to get some specific gains for the Muslim women.  The decision of taking it to the Prime Minister along with the list of other proposals still seeking for support from the ministries was also taken unanimously.

The setting

The socio-economic condition of the largest minority of India has always been a matter of great concern and been talked about at length at different platforms and occasions. However there have been no significant efforts in the direction of taking this debate out from specific academic groups and translating it towards a paradigm shift in the status of Muslims in India. Muslim women being doubly marginalized in this respect are at a greater loss with their key issues being diluted in the shadow of social discrimination, stereotyping and identity crisis of community as a whole.

The socio-economic condition of these women is much lower than that of some women belonging to other communities. They are disproportionately represented among the poor and have the lowest per capita income indicators. This is ascribed not only to the lack of access to asset ownership, but also to poor educational attainment and occupational patterns, which show clustering in low-paid activities, as well as the concentration of the Muslim population in the economically backward regions of the country.

Most of the outside work that the representative Muslim woman has access to falls in the lowest paid and most exploited categories of labor. Such activities – self-employed in low-productivity activities in the informal sector, as casual laborers and domestic servants – imply poor working conditions and low wages. It is, therefore, possible that Muslim women are kept out of the paid workforce not only by religious or purdah type motivations, but perhaps more significantly by low education, lack of opportunity, low mobility and the inability to delegate domestic responsibilities.

Addressing the question of resource rights of these women therefore is one of the major challenges in front of the Government, civil society organizations and the community per say. In these context women resource rights agenda, a comprehensive approach to ensure women’s right to livelihood, housing, land, property and resources through ONE WINDOW APPROACH would be very helpful for Muslim women in enhancing their social and economic status. Women’s illiteracy and several restrictions made in the name of religio-cultural practices binder their awareness and exposure to changing social and economic situation arising out of liberalization, privatization and globalization.

The Focus:

Some prior experience of sharing and exchange with Muslim women through a series of consultation and group meetings reflects the idea that these women lack leadership initiatives as well as basic skills of owning and managing resources. Infact it is seen that on most of the occasions there is lack of representation from within the community on issues of women and resource rights. Therefore identifying vocal women and supporting them in developing leadership skills is the prime focus of the workshop.

The first day of the workshop intended to identify key issues from within the community, the challenges, way ahead for addressing these issues and identify women who can take on the leadership and present the demands at different levels. Later these women can be sent for various skill development and exposure programmes to develop a holistic perspective on the issue.

Owning and managing available resources requires another level of skills which needs to be developed in the community women. Thus women from the community need an extra force to push their agenda forward. This is the reason why CWLR has focused on developing specific work plan and strategies to adopt and carry forward WRRA in context of Muslim Women.

The second day of this workshop looked at the training needs of these women for managing the available resources in groups and also working towards new commons which will not only increase their resource base but also lead to sustained income generation opportunities. Though there were no focused discussions in the workshop on individual training needs the group activity shed some light on possibilities of initiating the livelihood programmes in between the community women with support from financial institutions like NABARD.

मुस्लिम महिला संसाधन अधिकार से जुडी संस्तुति या (recommendations)

Recommendations

  1. -एक जागरुकता अभियान चलाया जाये जिसमे सरकार तथा नागरिक समाज संगठन जैसे स्वैक्छिक संस्थाऐ, धार्मिक संस्थाऐ, ग्रामीण संगठन आदि शामिल हो ।

    Initiate an awareness campaign including the participation from government/ non government / voluntary/ religious institutions and village level institutions

  2. जिविका चलाने के लिये सरकार एक खिडकी यानि single window approach”  की शुरूआत करे !

    Government to initiate single window program for livelihood support

  3. सरकार की रोज़गार सम्बन्धी योजनाओ का प्रचार प्रसार: ग्रामीण, तह्सील, ज़िला, प्रदेश और राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर

    Promotion and advertisement of government’s schemes related to employment and livelihood at village, division, district, state and national level

  4. लोकल सेल्फ गवर्नमेंट द्वारा रोज़गार सम्बन्धित योजनाओ को महिलाओ तक पहुंचाना

  5. हर स्तर पर सरकरी कर्मचारियो के लिये मुस्लिम समुदाय की संस्कृति, कानून इत्यादि को ले कर सम्वेदनशील करने हेतु कार्यक्रम चालाना

    Start a sensitization program regarding the laws, culture etc of Muslim community for the government employees at all levels

  6. सरकारी और गैर सरकारी संसथाओ द्वारा एक सुरक्षित माहोल बनाया जाये जिससॆ महिलाओ को जिविका के संसाधनो की प्राप्ति मे सहायता हो

    Create an safe and enabling environment for women supporting their livelihoods initiatives through government/ non government institutions

  7. नेशनल अक्काउनटिग सिस्ट्म- जनगणना, एन एस एस ओ, आर्थिक सर्वेक्षण मे घरेलू व्यवसाये से जुडी विभिन्न धार्मिक और अन्य समुदाय की महिला कारिगरो की गणना की जाये

    Include the data of women related to different religious and social groups working as home based workers in census, NSSO and other economic surveys

  8. विस्थापित (शहरी तथा ग्रामीण) आबादी के पुर्नवास एवं रोज़गार के विकल्प के साथ साथ महिलाओ को प्रधानता दी जाये

    Give priority to women in rehabilitation package of displaced population and provide them livelihood options

  9. पुर्नवास के लिये सरकार से मिले संसाधनो मे महिलाओ का व्यक्तिगत और समूल नाम शामिल हो

    Resources distributed at the time of rehabilitation should be transferred in the name of the women individually or in joint name

  10. सरकारी और वक्फ बोर्ड की ज़मीन के वितरण मे महिला/महिला समूह को प्राथमिकता मिले

    Women/women’s groups should be given priority in distribution of land belonging to Wakf board

  11. महिलाओ को लोन देने के सन्दर्भ मे वित्तीय संस्थानो कि पार्दर्शिता हो और उसका निरीक्षण हो

    There should be transparency in the financial institution regarding the process of giving loan to women and it should be monitored regularly

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  12. कृषी सम्बन्धी सरकारी योजनाओ के अंर्तगत दी जाने वाली वित्तीय सहायता मे महिला किसान को प्रधानता दी जाये!

    Women farmers should be given priority in getting financial assistance under the agriculture schemes of the government

  13. NREGA मे संशोधन किया जाय तकि घरेलू व्य्वसायो को इसमे समाविष्ट कर सके तथा महिला कारिगरो की कुशलता मे वृद्धि का प्रवाधान हो

  14. नाबार्ड द्वारा दी जानेवाली व्य्वसायिक ट्रेनिग मे प्राथमिक शिक्षा पायी हुई महिला को भी शामिल करने का प्रावधान हो (एकल/ तलाकशुदा/बेवा महिला)
  15. 1937 शरियत एप्प्लिकेशन एक्ट मे कृषि की ज़मीन सम्बन्धी क्लाज़ मे संशोधन किया जाए

  16. वक्फ बोर्ड की प्रोर्पटी के बारे मे तमाम जानकारिया मुहिया करायी जाए !
  17. सच्चर कमिटी कि रिपोर्ट मे दी गयी संस्तुतियो पर राज्य तथा रष्ट्रीय स्तर पर प्लान आफ एक्शन बना कर अमल हो खास तौर पर वोह जो औरतो के बारे मे हो

    Extend the reach of employment related schemes to women through local self government

Amendment of NREG ACT for the inclusion of home based work and skill up gradation of women artisan

There should be some provision for women having basic education in trainings given by NABARD (Single/divorced/widow)

Amendment in Shariat Application ACT 1937 to change the particular clause related to women’s share in agricultural land

All information regarding the property under Wakf board (especially those distributed to women) should be made public

Implementation of Sachar Committee report –including the needs of the women through an action plan at state and national level

At a time when the community is struggling internally as well as externally with the issues of insecurity, identity crisis and poverty there is an urgent need to address the concern of the largest minority of the nation in a way that provides gains to both men and women equally and bring them at power. This workshop was one of the effort to gather the voices of the Muslim women from some regions of India together and understand their immediate needs towards their sustained empowerment.

The recommendations here are the definite sign of the beginning and not the end. The process will take pace with the lobbying efforts of the partners and friends together for strengthening the resource base of these women and present them as major stakeholder in the development and progress of the whole.

The issue will need support from all spheres including government, civil society, religious leaders and most importantly men of the community because growth of the community as a whole still remains our larger aim.


Footnote:

1. Column on ‘Muslim women’s in India’, Jayati Gosh, Frontline, Volume 21 – Issue 19, Sept. 11 – 24, 2004

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