Voices of Assam's leading Muslim women on IWD

Story by  ATV | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 08-03-2024
Rani Hazarika
Rani Hazarika


Munni Begum / Guwahati

On the occasion of International Women's Day, some prominent Muslim women of Assam spoke about the significance of Women's Day.

Senior advocate and lecturer at Bishnuram Medhi Government Law College here, Dr Shahnaz Rahman, said: “Advocating for the inclusion of women and emphasizing their value in society is not merely a matter of equity; it’s a cornerstone for fostering a world brimming with innovation, diversity and resilience. The active participation and inclusion of women in various sectors -- be it in leadership positions, the workforce, educational realms or decision making bodies -- usher in a plethora of benefits that transcend gender, impacting the very fabric of society. When women are included, the diversity of perspectives and experiences enriches problem-solving processes and decision making, leading to more holistic and innovative solutions.

“For instance, in the realm of business, companies with greater gender diversity on their executive teams are more likely to outperform their less diverse counterparts in terms of profitability and value creation. This diversity sparks creativity and drives innovation, highlighting the undeniable value of women’s contribution across all fields.”

“Furthermore, women’s inclusion in the workforce and leadership roles is crucial for economic growth. Women represent half of the world’s potential talent base, and harness

ing this talent by ensuring their participation in the economy is key to achieving sustainable development and competitiveness on a global scale. Economies that invest in women’s employment, health and education are shown to have a competitive edge and are more resilient to economic downturns.   

Dr Shahnaz Rahman and Sofia Banu

“Moreover, gender equality and the empowerment of women are fundamental to solving many of the global challenges we face today, from climate change to poverty reduction. Women often have unique insights and strategies for addressing these issues, making their participation essential in crafting effective and sustainable solutions. In essence, championing women’s inclusion is not just about achieving gender equality; it’s about shaping a better world for everyone. By valuing and incorporating the contributions of women in all sectors of society, we pave the way for a more equitable, innovative and prosperous world,” she added.

Sofia Banu, Associate Professor at Gauhati University, said: "Since women have taken responsibility on their shoulders and led from the front, from the world's decision-making bodies to the boardrooms, we have certainly come a long way for sure. But still there are many societal structures and bodies where the scenario is not the same. The urban India might have provided fairly equal opportunities and supported the growth and independence of many women, however, we still have many sections of society mostly from remote, poor segments where this doesn’t exist. The Northeast Indian societies are reasonably fair in terms of opportunities and support towards women. They have a say in decision making baring few communities. The national scenario and in many countries the scenario is not the same.

“Occasions like International Women’s Day (IWD) are meant to provide a platform for collective global activism and celebration that belongs to all those who are committed to forging equality and more so equity. The first International Women's Day (IWD) was held in March 1911, since then this is an occasion to educate the people in general about the issues, concerns and to mobilize the political will and resources to address burning global issues related to women and to celebrate and reinforce the achievements of them. As famously said the story of women's struggle for equality and equity belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights’.”

“The way forward is to include women, which means we have to embrace their diversity of race, age, ability, faith, body image, and how they identify. To truly include women in every walk of life worldwide, women must be included in all fields of endeavour. The inclusion can be entrusted by recruiting, retaining and developing diverse talent among women and girls, supporting women and girls into leadership, decision-making, business and mentor them to be their best in STEMM. The inclusion should make changes in decisions to promote designing and building infrastructure meeting the needs of women and girls at every level of education and skill development programmes. Healthy society is of utmost importance to raise a healthy nation, helping women and girls make informed decisions about their health is of utmost importance.

“To summarize collectively, anyone can participate through whatever activity is most relevant and be impactful for their context to make that small difference which can inspire many others to follow,” she added.

 Zerine Wahid and Tinat Atifa Masood

Poetess and author Zerine Wahid said: “Women form the crux of our society. They are seen as nurturers and caregivers owing to their natural flair for empathy and consideration for others. In the same breath, a woman is not to be taken as weak and incapable of handling affairs outside the warmth and safety of her home. Women epitomise calmness, patience and resilience and make for excellent teachers, nurses and counsellors. Their enhanced communication and social skills are in demand in the service industry and human resource domain.

“Women, even today in an ever-progressing society, find themselves increasingly marginalised and given a raw deal when it comes to equal societal representation, especially in developing economies of the world. The issues could be as diverse as poverty, lack of education and opportunity, patriarchy, domestic abuse, unfair government policies, lack of women’s security, unequal pay and so on. According to World Bank data, women account for only 50% representation in the global workforce compared to 80% of men. In India, female labour force participation stands at 37%, according to a 2022-23 Periodic Labour Force data.

“As far as a saying goes, ‘An educated woman creates an educated family.’ If the women in the family are empowered and given equal opportunity in the decision-making process, the health and income of the family improve considerably. This, in turn, creates a chain and benefits the society at large. Further, inclusion of women in the workplace ensures better working conditions and enhances productivity.

“The onus lies on policymakers today to create a conducive environment for women to thrive both at her home and workplace. And by ensuring a level playing field can there be progress in breaking women stereotypes, thereby creating mentors and role models for the rest of her gender to emulate.”

Singer Rani Hazarika said: “Women are taking over in all walks of life -- pilots, doctors, journalists, homemakers, engineers, singers, actresses, filmmaker, music director, politician et al -- they are doing everything. They are also soft and selfless. They are focused, ambitious and independent. Women's Day is an opportunity to celebrate their day-long efforts that go behind making everyone happy. Being a woman, I know homemaking is surely not an easy task, it involves a lot of multitasking, a lot of productivity in building a home, a family. Homemakers do it religiously every single day.”

“But before anyone else celebrates you on this day, you should celebrate yourselves. You need to give this day to yourself,” she added.

“Ultimately, the theme for International Women's Day 2024 serves as a call to action for individuals, communities and governments to redouble their efforts in advancing gender equality and women's empowerment. By inspiring others to understand and value women's inclusion, we can forge a better world where every individual, regardless of gender, has the opportunity to thrive and contribute to the fullest extent of their abilities,” Hazarika further said.

Leadership trainer and happiness coach Tinat Atifa Masood said: “Imagine a symphony without the lilting notes of a violin or a garden devoid of blossoms. Such is the world without women. Their perspectives, experiences, and talents enrich every sphere — be it science, art, governance, or community building. When we recognize this truth, we unlock a wellspring of innovation and empathy.

“In the tapestry of humanity, women are the vibrant threads that weave together resilience, compassion and wisdom. Their inclusion is not merely a matter of equality; it is the cornerstone of progress. When we champion women’s voices, we elevate society as a whole.”

“Inclusion is not a passive act; it is a deliberate choice. It means inviting women to the decision-making table, amplifying their achievements and dismantling barriers. When we do so, we create a symphony where every instrument harmonizes, and a garden where every bloom thrives.

Afshana Begum

“Women have long battled stereotypes — labels that confine them to predefined roles. But when we challenge these stereotypes, we pave the way for progress. A woman can be a scientist, a CEO, an artist, and a mother — all at once. Her worth is not limited to her familial or societal roles; it transcends boundaries,” she added.

“By celebrating women who defy norms, we inspire others to do the same. When a young girl sees a female astronaut or a female entrepreneur, she dreams beyond the confines of convention. Inclusion becomes a beacon guiding her path. Women’s inclusion is not solely the responsibility of women; it belongs to all of humanity. Men, too, benefit from a world where their sisters, mothers and daughters thrive. When we dismantle patriarchal norms, we liberate everyone.

Afsana Begum, a leading women entrepreneur of the North East India says "In a world mired in inequalities, empowering women and fostering their inclusion is not just a moral imperative; it is the key to unlocking a brighter, more equitable future. Inclusion is not merely about meeting quotas but acknowledging the unique strengths and capabilities that women bring to the table."She says that the impact of women's inclusion extends far beyond workplace dynamics. It influences the way societies function, shaping cultural norms and challenging stereotypes. By actively promoting gender equality, we break down barriers that limit opportunities for women, ensuring they have a voice in decision-making processes and contribute meaningfully to the development of communities. Inclusive societies thrive economically, socially, and politically, creating a ripple effect that benefits everyone.

"With the right kind of support and endorsement from important stakeholders, change is possible. The baton would first be passed on to leaders, who hold the power to pave the way forward. Prioritizing the elimination of workplace discrimination, leaders can make decision making and salaries transparent, introduce more flexible work options, training opportunities for women, and an overall focus on well-being and mental health of all employees," Afsana says.

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“Let us be torchbearers, igniting conversations, challenging biases, and celebrating achievements. When we inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusion, we forge a better world—one where equality is not an aspiration but a lived reality,” Masood concluded.