Five Nuh women go against all odds to study, show others way
They have been nominated as brand ambassadors of Nuh
Notwithstanding the penury, the deep-rooted social bias, stiff opposition from their own families and the lack of opportunities, five young Muslim women from Haryana’s Nuh, one of the hundred most backward districts in the country, decided not to bogged down and took all challenges head-on to realise their dream of seeking higher education for a better tomorrow.
May not be the “big” achievers, but hero in their own stories, these women have now been nominated as brand ambassadors of Nuh by former Sarpanch and two-time ‘Rashtriya Gaurav Gram Sabha Puraskar’ winner Sunil Jaglan for his foundation. The five will share their stories of grit to inspire the women in the region and create awareness among them on their rights, health and education.
“The tag of backward district needs to be shaken off Nuh. Wherever we go, we are reminded that we come from a backward region,” says Rizwana, one of the women, with a sense of resolve in her voice. She pursues General Nursing and Midwifery course from Charkhi Dadri, but her journey from an obscure Pipaka village of Nuh’s Tauru Block to the present day has not been an easy one, to say the least. Clad in a red hijab, the 19-year-old recalls how her parents borrowed money and sold off all their jewellery to pay for her studies. Though none in her family is literate, her father, a farmer, wanted her to become a nurse to serve people in Nuh — a district with an abysmal record on health infrastructure.
Wasima (20), pursuing law from Sonipat’s Bhagat Phool Singh Mahila Vishwavidyalaya (BPSMV), comes from an educated family but had a tough time persuading her parents to send her to hostel for higher studies. “Parents in Nuh don’t even send girls to neighbouring village fearing for their safety. Most girls drop out after senior secondary. Higher education is a dream for girls here,” says Wasima. She says the women in Nuh neglect their health and are not aware of their rights. “They are scared of everyone. They are not aware of their rights. I want to change this and create awareness among them working with Selfie With Daughter Foundation,” says Wasima, a resident of Ainchwari village.
Donning a red-jacket Shahnaz Bano, the eldest in the gang, held meetings with the women in around half-a-dozen villages neighbouring her Sakras village and spoke to them about their problems and rights as part of the nomination process. “During one such meeting I came to know how a Sarpanch’s family was opposed to their daughters going to school. They feared that the girls might marry men of her choice if allowed to go out. I convinced them that education was important and women today were making their mark in all fields,” says Bano, 25, who is pursuing MA (Urdu) from a Nuh college.
Juggling between her studies, job and coaching classes in Jaipur, Arastun, 21, a civil services aspirant, found it difficult to convince her parents to let her study after her elder sister chose to marry a man of her choice bringing a “bad name” to the family. But she had put her foot down. “I want people to know my father by my name. I am ready to face anything for it,” she says. “Girls are not less capable than boys. But how can they ask for their rights, when they don’t know about them. I want to work for their rights,” says Arastun, a resident of Bhond village. She blames the political class of Nuh for failing the women of the region.
Though her grandfather Islamuddin fought for women’s education all his life, Anjum Islam, 18, a second-year-law student at BPSMV, also faced opposition from her family when she expressed her desire to go to hostel for higher studies. But her mother stood up for her. “It is a male-dominated society. No equal opportunities for women,” says Islam, from Tain village, who wants to support more girls like her and help them realise their dream.
Besides lack of education opportunities and poor health, the five point out “dowry” and “sexual abuse” as two major concerns of the women in Nuh. “Parents consider girls as a liability because they need to pay dowry at the time of their marriage. They consider them to be paraya dhan [someone else’s property] and don’t want to spend on their education,” says Rizwana.
A science post-graduate, Mr. Jaglan, who is known for his ‘Selfie With Daughter’ campaign, said the five were shortlisted after a gruelling selection process requiring them to hold meetings in the villages and deliver speeches. “The five were selected from around a thousand of girls after several rounds of screening. It is their revolutionary spirit that strikes the most. We plan to have one such ambassador in each village later to spread the message of women empowerment,” he adds.