MUZAFFARABAD: She believes women need to be empowered through education and financial independence, yet feels strongly that women need to do so while balancing their cultural values with emancipation. A success story to say the least, Farzana Yaqoob, Minister for Social Welfare and Women’s Development in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) is helping bring about change but with a sense of balance.
The younger daughter of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) President Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan, she hails from a middle class family of Ali Sojal village, in Rawalakot district. She graduated in 2000 from Punjab University and after marriage settled down in Switzerland.
In 2011 she came back to AJK and won the by-election from LA-19 Rawalakot constituency that remained vacant after her father Sardar Yaqoob was made the President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
Sharing her views while talking to The Express Tribune Yaqoob said politics is not as bad a field as people imagine it to be, and when you join it as a passion to serve people, the satisfaction is matchless. She feels that it is an honour for her that she is the second woman of Azad Kashmir after Noreen Arif who was elected by the people. “This has given me the confidence to bring about a change on ground.”
All for sticking to one’s cultural roots, Yaqoob added that while we do live in a male-dominated society, things can become less problematic if a female follows the religious and cultural values of her forefathers. “I believe if she does so, nobody will create hurdles in her way. When a person follows the right direction and the intention is to make the people prosperous and economically stable, then nobody will ignore him or her,” Yaqoob observed.
She said vision needs implementation and unfortunately we only talk about the vision but practically we do nothing to make the vision a story of success through practical steps.
A stickler when it comes to meritocracy in her own words, Yaqoob said that “there is zero tolerance towards merit violation in my department.” In her opinion, implementation of a system based on merit is the final remedy to bring about sustainable change in society.
Slowly inching towards empowerment of the women of AJK through education, Yaqoob shared that “while we cannot provide jobs for every educated woman in AJK, we are thinking about how to engage the literate women to make them financially stable, as a big portion of our population is female,” said Farzana.
She feels that women are dynamic and even more hardworking than men. The Minister hopes that the government would engage non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for the welfare of womenfolk to equip them with different kinds of skills and crafts aimed at improving their economic condition.
Yaqoob’s department is working on different projects to empower the rural women across AJK. “Livestock, floral culture, horticulture and agriculture are the fields where we can help women become financially stable by providing them small loans.”
She termed the sharp rise in incidents related to violence against women as unfortunate. “The basic reason of violence against the women is that we are not following social norms, culture and religion in its true spirit.”
Besides her active involvement in politics which is not so common in AJK, Yaqoob is an active human rights activist. In this connection she recently attended the women’s conference in the European Parliament, held at Brussels. She shared that in the European Parliament they highlighted the violation of women’s rights by the Indian security forces in Indian Kashmir where thousands of women have been tortured and molested since 1990.
“We will continue to raise the issue of women’s rights’ violations by the so-called largest democracy of the world and what its troops are doing to the women of Indian Kashmir under the cover of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which is a licence given by New Delhi to its troops to kill anyone in Indian Kashmir,” she said, adding that the draconian AFSPA is being used to crush the freedom activists in Indian Kashmir particularly women.