RAHAMATHUNNISSA A. is National Secretary, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, and Chief Editor of the Aura e-magazine which attempts to engage with women’s voices and debates while centring on social, political, economic, and personal experiences of women from different communities, and drawing upon the framework of gender justice and social justice. She is also Chairperson of The Women Education and Empowerment Trust (TWEET). In an interview with MOHD NAUSHAD KHAN, she said, “If we analyse the representation of women across the sectors, we see high level of gender disparity which provides evidence of why the issue of literacy has to be urgently addressed to improve the status of women in the country. Moreover, it’s a shame that the country ranks 123rd among all nations in the world in women’s literacy at a time when we are celebrating the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’.”

First of all, please tell us about National Level Literacy Campaign launched by The Women Education and Empowerment Trust (TWEET)?

The national literacy campaign, ‘Freedom from illiteracy: Each One Teach Ten’ is a one-year literacy campaign to empower adult women through functional literacy which includes reading, writing and listening. As the motto of the campaign states, anyone who wants to be part of this great mission to bring change in society and enable every woman to lead a life with dignity can volunteer to be part of this campaign. At the same time, this campaign aims at educating women of all communities equally.

It’s a great opportunity for young girls and women who want to make a difference in their own life by engaging themselves in educating women with the help of their skills, and also an opportunity to add value to their profile with the volunteer certificate and experiential learnings. Through our training programmes and field experience, the volunteers will also be developing their leadership qualities and emotional intelligence which will benefit them in their career as well as family life. This is also an attempt to engage the youth force in a positive way for the benefit of the nation at large.

Why do you think such kind of campaign is necessary at this stage and what would you like to achieve through this campaign?

TWEET has been engaged in many programmes like skill development trainings, livelihood project implementation, legal awareness, financial literacy and so on to empower women. The greatest hurdle in this process faced by us is their illiteracy. This is one of the major reasons of the current socio-economic status of women in the country. The way women have been exploited and marginalised in the society is very alarming. If we analyse the representation of women across the sectors, we see high level of gender disparity which provides evidence of why the issue of literacy has to be urgently addressed to improve the status of women in the country. Moreover, it’s a shame that the country ranks 123rd among all nations in the world in women’s literacy at a time when we are celebrating the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’.

How do you think educational empowerment can transform the life of women and society at large? 

The age old saying, ‘If you educate a man, you educate a person. If you educate a woman, you educate a society’ is a proven fact. It will have its impact in families where children spend their formative years in character building. Education provides source of information which enhances the ability to engage and provides a strong base to access the rights. The question for women has always been centred on asserting rights and getting informed regarding the opportunities which breaks the chains of exploitation and oppression. Education is one of those weapons which create citizens who are capable of executing their civil duties in the proper manner. If citizens are not well informed, the very Democratic system turns into anarchy or supremacy of a small minority who are privileged. This is one of the most important steps in reducing the social and economic divide in the country. 

In the last decade, we can see educational awareness among the Muslim community has increased to some extent, but is that enough to keep pace with the changing world?

As the society progresses, some change is very natural which has also happened with all the marginalised and deprived communities. The available data provides a clear picture that the progress of Muslim women is very slow as compared to other communities which is a matter of grave concern. In the era of digital literacy, Muslim women in many states have failed to avail the basic education and remain illiterate. This is a clear example of how the women in the Muslim society have been pushed backward. We strongly feel it’s an institutional negligence and failure occurred due to misgovernance.

Education of girl child has always remained challenging for a variety of reasons. How challenging is it now, keeping in mind the present atmosphere in the country?

The country in theory has many good projects as well as regulations to facilitate the education of a girl child. But they fail at implementation level and only a selected section of girls gets benefitted due to corruption, wrong priorities, the caste system, vested interests of the ruling parties and executives as well as partiality towards certain regions and communities. For example, the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ project. We all know where maximum portion of the allotted budget went. The alertness of the civil society is very essential in this regard.

Do you believe educational empowerment is the key to empowerment of the Muslim community – socially, politically and economically?

Yes, very strongly. It’s a proven fact that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ brought a revolutionary change in the lives of women and girls fourteen and a half centuries ago by starting with ‘Iqra’ which means ‘Read’. And it was not limited to Theology but all branches of learning, including Economics, Medicine and Astronomy. Even today education should be the first step in empowerment.

How confident are you in the success of your campaign? It will require a lot of human resource and finance. How will you be able to meet with all?

We are very confident. Our experience ever since the inception of Vision projects proves that the country still has many people who are ready to sacrifice for a good cause, financially or physically. Our hope is in the educated young girls who if motivated and convinced properly are always ready to take the extra pains to do something rewarding for their fellow human beings and nation building.

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