Inspirations to be had from Batpora girls
By: Heeba Din/ Uzma Manzoor
While accepting the responsibility of community development, Afreen – a youth group formed by some 15 young enthusiastic girls from Batpora, Srinagar, have taken up the initiative to bring a change.
What started as a small initiative two and a half years back with just two members, Afreen now has grown and is actively contributing in bringing awareness in society.
An all-girls group, it has been highlighting different issues such as domestic violence, caste system, status of women in society and other women related issues.
Belonging to a society that has largely a traditional mindset, Afreen youth group has broken the shackles of stereotypes of women in Kashmir and created their own identity.
Bisma Bhat, a vivacious 18 year old and the youngest member of the group talks with exuberance about being part of the group. About the apprehensions of her parents that she safely has overcome, Bisma mentions, “at first my parents weren’t supportive about me joining the group, but after witnessing the potential of work, now they are very encouraging.”
Bisma aspires to do a lot for her society and wants to make her career in social work only.
Kashmiri society that recently was ridiculed for its deteriorating sex ratio and cases of female infanticide has a dark history of oppression against women. Evolving groups like Afreen offer a ray of hope to fight all that oppression.
With its aggressive work using the Right to Information Act as a tool, the group has managed to bring in to notice the fraudulent use of funds allotted for the road maintenance in Batpora. Encouraged by this achievement, the members now are more dedicated than ever and feel much more confident about their work.
Paying deaf ear to the scornful banter of the people living in the village, the group members said that overall sentiment about their group was quite negative at first. They had to listen to the continuous jests of their elders who even used to taunt them and question as what they would achieve with their work. But they never allowed their morale to go down and instead strived to work harder with every passing day.
Despite the fact that the group has no permanent office for meetings yet the group meets twice a month to set the issues and come up with procedures to tackle the problems.
The group would perform a skit to mark this Women’s day in which they would throw some light on ‘the status of women in Kashmir’ in the Sumbal area of Baramullah district. Highlighting the issues of the women, the group members said this women’s day they pledge to empower women and help them raise their voices against atrocities committed by society on women.
Previously the group also did a skit on caste system and received a good response from the locals.
We interacted with Rafia, another group member, and from her we learnt about how she views her work and role. She said that it is not always about earning money but about learning and serving the society. Rafia said that though they don’t get monetary benefit from this group but individually, this group has helped all of them to open up and feel confident about themselves and accept who they are.
Afreen youth group has now taken up the initiative to bring justice to recent case of domestic violence that led to the alleged killing of 27-year-old, Nelofar Jan from Preng, Kangan. This is the group’s first such foray into such kind of cases. The group members are leaving no stone unturned in order to bring justice to the victim.
Shabnam, a community worker of Indo Global Social Service Society, parent organization of the Afreen youth group, says that the real idea behind starting Afreen was youth capacity building, highlighting the women issues in the prevailing society.
She concludes that we are very proud of the group’s achievements; the group has come a long way. It was beyond comprehension that undergraduate girls from small village of Batpora will become inspiration for not only other girls but also the boys in the locality as many boys have admitted their willingness to join Afreen.