Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan And Observer Research Foundation
Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan [BMMA] and Observer Research Foundation [ORF] organized a round table on issues of Muslim women on 28th April, 2012 in Mumbai. It was attended by activists, academicians, journalists, civil society groups and individuals who were concerned with improving the status of Muslim women.
This roundtable was an important part of a study done by ORF and BMMA to document the efforts and initiatives of NGOs managed by Muslim women across the country. Muslim women have been invisible in academic and other forms of literature. Their initiatives, views, difficulties and challenges have not been adequately documented. There was a need felt for documenting the initiatives of Muslim women and the efforts that they are taking to ameliorate not only their own concerns but also the concerns of the larger Muslim community and the Indian society. The study also includes interviews with prominent members of the government, activists, scholars and media persons, knowledgeable about issues plaguing the Muslim community in general and Muslim women in particular. The interviews were a big source of recommendations for empowering the Muslim women and to that end documents the role of state, NGOs an media in working towards bringing fore the challenges of marginalization and neglect faced by the Muslim women as a result of government apathy and lack of community support.
The round table was attended by prominent persons like Shabistan Gaffar from National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, GOI, Arefa Khanum Sherwani from Rajya Sabha Channel Dr. Zeenat Shaukat Ali from WISDOM Foundation, Javed Anand from Muslims For Secular Democracy, Khatoon Shaikh from Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, Uzma Naheed from Iqra, Nasreen Fazalbhoy from Mumbai University, Farrukh Waris from Burhani College.   More than 25 activists from BMMA took active part in the round table and gave their suggestions. Mr. Sudheen Kulkarni from ORF gave the concluding remarks and Ms. Noorjehan Safia Niaz from BMMA gave a brief introduction of BMMA and the objectives behind the study undertaken by both the organizations.
The round table concluded with the opinion that the Muslim community is an equal partner in the national community. The diversity of the country must be maintained and at the same time each community must get a feeling that they are participating in national life. The aim is integration and not assimilation.
The stereotypes of various communities, especially about the Muslim community exist because there is no communication between the Muslims and the non-Muslims.
As far as government interventions with the Muslim community is concerned, it was stated that there is a political will to reach out to the Muslim community but there is no bureaucratic will. The bureaucracy is insensitive and does not respond even to the political class. Hence we as civil society groups cannot leave everything in the hands of the bureaucrats but play a larger role.
The focus of the round table was not so much to discuss the problems but to arrive at solutions and recommendations. Some important suggestions are given as under:
• The rules, regulations relate to the government schemes meant for the minority community must be user friendly.
• The NGOs also must develop more professionalism in their work
• There is a need for Public Private Partnership
• There is need for more alliances amongst the NGOs working with the Muslim women
• Muslim community must also become independent and not always look towards the government for its empowerment.
• Muslim women must emerge as leaders, as advocates of their community and must emerge as fighters who will not sit comfortably till they are empowered
• The government schools must be extended till 10th class and the quality of education imparted in these schools must be on par with private schools.
• English must be introduced in the public schools right from standard 1. Even the poorest Muslim family today wants their child to get education in English.
• The government must support and regulate schools which are started by the Muslim community by providing aid to them. The community needs more school and those must be created with the help of the state. There is a spate of unrecognized schools within the Muslim ghettos
• The government must also keep a check on other private schools and regulate their fee structure.
• The Muslim community must also look at the facilities provided by the NOS which has an open school as well as 85 vocational courses
• The government must evaluate the school books to increase the presence of Muslim women
• A pressure group must be formed to liase with the state for implementation of schemes
• Government must make a flow chart to show where the lay person should go for availing the schemes
• The website of the government where the schemes are announced must be in Hindi and Urdu
• There must a channel by which the government communicates its schemes to women who are not literate and who are tech-savvy.
• The government must review the SHG scheme and do away with the requirement of income certificate. SHGs run by Muslim women must receive training.
• Government must form a redresser cell
 To take in complaints about the schemes
 For evaluating the manner in which schemes are being implemented and
 For increasing the partnership with the NGOs
• The community must use social media to highlight its issues and not just depend on mainstream media which thrives on sensationalism
• There is a need to challenge the stereotypes which media uses to identify the community. There is a need to reintroduce the community to the media without the stereotypes
• The newsroom is not a diverse place. The media houses must ensure that on general mainstream issues, the voices of all communities, including Muslims are included
• Journalists who are Muslims must also write on general mainstream issues and not just Muslim issues.
• Media must focus on issues of dalit and Muslim community
• Young Muslim girls must get media education
As per Arefa Khanum Sherwani the stone in the path of the development of the Muslim community has already moved and the water is flowing. We as community must ensure that we continue to remove obstacles in our way and let the water flow.
—————————— PATHAR HATAIYE, PANI BAHAIYE———————————–

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