Himayat Opens New Doors For Women Of Kashmir

Himayat Opens New Doors For Women Of Kashmir

24 July 2012
The Hindu
Smriti Kak Ramachandran

Srinagar: Six months ago, Parveena Bano’s notion of the world beyond the Banihal Tunnel - the only link between Kashmir and the rest of the country - was drawn from television, and her imagination. Now, having conquered the challenges of living away from home for the first time, in a place where everything from the language, the food and even the weather were strange, the young woman has been transformed into an icon for emancipation and empowerment. In December 2011, Ms. Bano, who was born in Baramulla, was among the hundreds of jobless youngsters chosen for a government-backed training-cum-job scheme called Himayat and groomed for a business process outsourcing job. Himayat, meaning support, was started by the Union Rural Development Ministry to help youngsters with no college education find work. The programme has emerged as a platform for women’s empowerment. “I had never been outside Kashmir,” Ms. Bano said. “My family was apprehensive at first, they gave in after four more girls from the same locality also found jobs in the same company as mine, and we all decided to stay together.” Shifting base to Chandigarh meant looking for a place to live, running the house, performing at work and staying close. “One day, we even sneaked into a mall to watch cricket on a giant screen,” she said with laughter. Interestingly, many of the men chosen along with Ms. Bano haven’t done so well. Many have dropped out of the jobs that took them away from home, citing low salaries and logistics problems. Despite having to fight parental disapproval and fears, a large number of women who could not pursue education for various reasons are queuing up for training in marketing, retail, healthcare and information technology to secure their future. Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh says he is making changes in the programme to address the high dropout rate. “We have decided to increase the post-placement support from Rs. 1,000 a month for two months to Rs. 12,000 for six months,” he told The Hindu. “We will also handhold them in whatever way to help them settle down.” During an interaction spread over two days with Himayat participants earlier this week, he acknowledged that women had made the most of the programme. Encouraging parents to support their daughters to take up jobs outside their hometowns and the State, he said: “I am told of the 120 youngsters who have been placed in companies in Chandigarh, 17 are girls. And some of these girls are raring to go further.” “There is a change in perception and parents are beginning to allow their girls to go out as well,” he noted. Ifrat Bano, also from Baramulla, who is in the Valley now for Ramzan, says confidence in Himayat is growing. “The parents trust us, because we gave them no cause for concern.” “Now, they want us to go back and pursue our jobs. And because we did a good job at work, the organisation too wants us back.” Omar’s praise After hearing Ms. Bano and a few other woman address an audience at a function recently, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah too applauded their determination. Low salaries have prevented most from sending money home, the women take pride in the fact that they are self-reliant and can chip in with “gifts for the family.” “When we came from Chandigarh, we bought gifts for everyone from the money we had saved up,” Rubeena Bano said, with pride in her voice. Mr. Ramesh says he now wants to expand the scheme. “We want to include orphans under the programme and help them become self-reliant.” “We are also talking to the Kashmiri expatriates in the Gulf to help employment for the trainees under Himayat.”