The state of Jammu and Kashmir has given the country thousands of hardworking women who have reached the pinnacle of success. What makes their stories more endearing is their journeys were replete with obstacles which they overcame successfully. Their dogged determination to succeed propelled them to march ahead and inspire everyone they met on their way.
Read on to know about ten inspiring Kashmiri women who become pioneers in their fields.
1. Mehvish Zarger
Zarger co-founded Me ‘n’ U Café in Srinagar became the first ever woman café entrepreneur in Kashmir. In an interview with SheThePeople.TV, she confessed that she pursued law but she never practised it as she was always interested in treading on the entrepreneurial path. It was her love for food that compelled her to open a restaurant. There were a lot of trials and tribulations she had to face since childhood. For instance, her father succumbed to cancer when she was only six. She also talked about how people dissuaded her from starting up by saying that because she was a girl she was not fit to run a business. Zarger, however, didn't pay heed to them and focussed her energy on her goal.
“There are so many girls here who have such big dreams and they have the capability to fulfill them. So, if I fulfill my dream and show them that it is a possibility, then it instils a faith in them to take a step forward towards their dreams as well.” – Zarger
2. Nadiya Nighat
Nighat is Kashmir’s first female football coach. The football aficionado was born and brought up in a middle-class Muslim family from Rambagh, a locality two kilometres away from of the Srinagar city. She explained how all girl students in her locality had almost no interest in sports. Thus, she turned to the boys who always discussed football. She told SheThePeople.TV that the hurdles she faced didn't have much to do with her gender but the problems of illiteracy. To her credit, she has 10 national and state level awards. She presently runs a football academy in Rambagh and trains more than 30 children, including three girls.
3. Iqra Rasool
Rasool, of Baramulla in Kashmir, is a young cricketer who is nurturing the dream of becoming a part of the women's cricket team. She idolises Jhulan Goswami and believes in the mantra of working relentlessly to achieve one's goals. Her inclination towards cricket during her teenage years was met with a lot of criticism.
"They always told me that it was not the sport to be played by women. It was men’s game. And me playing it would be a 'gandi baat' but I always protested saying, 'bahar ki ladkiyan bhi toh khelti hai, itna accha karti hai toh yeh gandi baat kaise Hui.' I wanted to play and make sure I prove them wrong. That was the moment I decided that I really want to go for it. To fight against the odds and achieve my dreams. The best part was that because of me, many other girls whose families did not allow them to play got a chance to play."
To all those girls hoping to carve out a career in cricket, she says, "I have only one thing to say, believe and trust your dreams. There will come a phase when even your parents would not accept but that is only because they want the best for you, woh galat nahi sochengay tumhaare liye but even then, don’t stop following your dreams, trust them, work hard and then show everyone what you are capable of."
4. Sabbah Haji
Haji is the director of the Haji Public School located in Jammu and Kashmir in the tiny village of Breswana. Sabbah has been striving to provide quality education to them. Talking about what motivated her to go on and one year after year ameliorating the lives of so many students, she says, "What does motivate me are the children – I have known some of them since the time they were born. I have taught most subjects in all classes so I know all their quirks and expressions." According to Sabbah, providing good quality education is essential to have a tangible and sustained impact in the region. Talking about the challenges she faces in running the school, she says that the biggest challenge is finding good teachers.
She shares that the students there are extremely bright, their personalities changing and developing, beckoning a bright future.
5. Nusrat Jahan
Jahan dared to walk on the untrodden path. Born in Dadoora village in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, this gutsy woman quit her job as a community organiser in Jammu Development Authority to start her own cut-flower business in 2000. Owing to her diligence and persistence, she has turned it into a successful business with the annual turnover of two crore rupees. The journey was not easy at all. She didn't have a market for her product. Besides that, her relatives failed to be the pillar of support she expected them to be.
“In a place like Kashmir you have to look upon a number of things. It is looked as a common thing when men go out to do business. Unlike having a parlour or a boutique, if a woman goes out and starts a business and especially business in which you will find more men involved just like floriculture or agriculture business, it is a difficult thing," she told a regional daily.
6. Dr Sharmeen Mushtaq
This medical professional became the first Kashmiri woman to participate in the snow car rally in Gulmarg. In an interview with News 18, the mother of two said, "If I want, I can inspire more women of Kashmir to come and join the sport, it will break the barriers. Kashmiri women should continue to push boundaries to live their dream.”
7. Irtiqa Ayoub
At 23, Kashmir based Irtiqa is a senior Rugby player and Rugby Development Officer. Her journey had a fair share of challenges, “I faced similar problems as any Kashmiri girl would while starting up a different interest. My parents were reluctant to support my passion at first but a few medals in my record changed their opinion. Currently, my parents support my dreams," she told SheThePeople.TV.
Irtiqa has won seven gold medals at the state level, and seven at the district level. She won a silver medal for Rugby 7’s in 2016 and 2017, and a gold medal for snow Rugby in 2017. In the she says that the biggest challenge is that of finding gofuture, she plans to go abroad and train with the best teams as All blacks, New Zealand and do something for her community.
“If once-a-shy-kid can do it, anybody can! But it is important for parents to stand beside their daughters – only with encouragement and proper facilities can they go far, fearlessly,” - Irtiqa
8. Roohi Nazki
Nazki is the founder of Srinagar’s famous tea room, Chai Jaai. Her cafe by the river in Srinagar is quite popular among young girls who say that Chai Jaai is a place they can finally breathe in. Her key mission is to make the tea room inclusive and to celebrate Kashmir. She admits that it is not just a tea room. She wants to make it a space where they can hold cultural conversations. The cafe is also known for celebrating every festival in a big way. She admits that the political situation in Kashmir is the biggest hurdle for her business but that didn't stop her from going on.
9. Tajamul Aslam
In 2016, the Kashmiri girl created history by winning a gold medal in the under-8 for India in the World Kickboxing Championship in Italy. Young Tajamul knocked down her rival from the US to become the world champion. She is the first Kashmiri girl who had achieved such a feat. She also excels in Wushu and Taekwondo. Aslam got into kickboxing in 2014 when she joined a local academy, which trains young boys and girls in martial arts. She is a true symbol of hope and determination for her home state. Her father, Ghulam Mohammad Lone, is a driver for a construction company but doesn't let his financial challenges stop his children from following their passion.
10. Insha Mushtaq
Insha was 14 when she was blinded to a pellet gun injury. During the protests in the summer of 2016, in the Kashmir Valley the security forces gunned down Hizb-ul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. She lost vision in both of her eyes after being hit by pellets while watching the protests from her window. Though she underwent six operations, she couldn’t regain her vision. It became extremely difficult for her to concentrate on her studies. However, she managed to clear her Class 10 exam in January. At present, she is studying further and aspires to be a doctor.
It is heartening to see so many courageous and confident women striving to live more fulfilled and independent lives.