"Exhibiting You" - Story

Women Between the Frontlines

By: Assabah Khan
Submitted: 02/22/2008

Now picture 700,000 Indian military troops roaming the countryside and given free reign by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1990 to arrest and kill on suspicion only. Add a controversial, complex political struggle between Pakistan, India, and regional separatist forces, and you have Kashmir.  

Disputed territories are incredibly complicated places. In Kashmir, the armed conflict between rival political groups in 1989 sparked an ongoing state of emergency. What does this say about the lives of everyday Kashmiri women? Just consider that today in Kashmir, there are officially 30,000 widows and 5,000 half-widows (women whose husbands are missing).

How has this two-decade-long emergency affected Kashmiri women? Are they politically active or politically unconscious in the absence of their husbands, brothers and sons? Are they organizing in any way? Are and how are Kashmiri women taking part in the ongoing conflict?

I, a journalist from Kashmir, teamed up with German filmmaker Ella von der Haide to make the film "Women Between the Frontlines," which showcases women leaders and thinkers in Kashmir. I am one of the women interviewed along with the journalist Afsana Rashid, professor Hameedah Nayeem, and the leader of Voluntary Health Association of India, Ezabir Ali.

In my opinion, a particularly impressive aspect of the film is our representation of ATHWAS, an NGO that organizes self-help groups for women in rural villages while also training young women to be health professionals. Not many in Kashmir, and especially outside of Kashmir, are aware of their work, but it is precisely this type of grassroots work that is making a difference in Kashmir.

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