New Delhi [India], December 18 (ANI): Despite odds of being a patriarchal society, Jammu and Kashmir women are making strides in business ventures and entrepreneurship.
Shariyat Fatima, a freelance writer based out of India, pursuing a master in psychology, writing in Saudi Gazette said that in the past decade, an expanding number of Kashmiri women have picked work or business ventures as their underlying strides toward a career. Gender economics, in a state that has seen slow social development, has emerged as a turning point.
Srinagar's Rifat Jan, while sharing her journey of managing and running the only female-run bat-making unit in the Union Territory (UT) said, "I have never feared anything and have always been determined to take up any challenge and see myself through it".
"Kashmiri women live in a patriarchal society, with the changes in the global and national social fabric being reflected in the UT to a very minimal level. They have continued to be tied to their gender roles, and with the stark affairs of the state, remained in the clutches of oppressive home lives and the repercussions of the unrest in the valley region," said Fatima.
While illiteracy is one of the biggest hurdles for women achieving their dreams in the Union Territory, institutions such as the Crafts Development Institute at Srinagar provide skilled training in declining regional and highly coveted arts, such as Namda (a traditional carpet created with rolled and pressed wool), reported Saudi Gazette.
Despite the limitations, women in the state do not shy away from dreaming big, nor do they hesitate to face, and subsequently overcome, all possible obstacles that stand in their way of achieving said dreams.
The bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into a Union Territory with its legislature was heavily driven by the lack of economic progress in the region; amidst political uncertainties, real-time development in the region has long suffered.
For example, economic growth in the state has long been erratic, with state gross domestic product (GDP) fluctuating between -3.2 per cent to 17.7 per cent over a span of two years. However, post bifurcation, total export from the UT stood at USD 188.18 million in 2019-20 while the financial year 2021 saw exports at USD 159.64 million, reported Saudi Gazette.
At present, Kashmir's cottage handicrafts industry provides direct and gainful employment to around 340,000 artisans overall.
Women entrepreneurs have made their mark in all walks of life, from women-owned dairy businesses limiting their products to the essentials needed by people to fashion designers turned into manufacturers of face-masks and protective kits.
Kashmiri women have also turned to agricultural endeavours to fulfill their ambitions of independence and self-sustenance, said Fatima.
Moreover, the Indian government's direct focus on the region's economic growth has seen the recent launch of a Rs 200 crore cluster development fund of Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI); a Jammu and Kashmir Bank scheme for Rs 500,000 financial assistance to girls between 18 to 35 years of age to start their own businesses; and a Punjab National Bank (PNB) scheme for meeting credit requirements of up to Rs 2 crores for the hotel and tourism industry which includes small-scale travel agencies, reported Saudi Gazette.
In April 2021, the government of Jammu and Kashmir signed 456 memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with various firms for a potential investment worth Rs 23,152 crore (USD 3.17 billion); the benefits of these are poised to greatly support small businesses and start-ups in the region which are being increasingly dominated by women.
Commendably, the government of the Union Territory has also been actively involved in catering to the interests of female entrepreneurs, and in the process of empowering and uplifting them, said Fatima.
Various government schemes such as UMEED, SAATH and HAUSLA have also gone a long way in providing support to women who want to step into the entrepreneurial field. Over 50,000 self-help groups -- with the aim of helping rural women -- exist in the region, and have been associated with over 450,000 women. (ANI)