In yet another step towards empowerment of rural women in ‘Naya Jammu and Kashmir’, the government has opened up “Umeed Market Place” under AVSAR (Airport as Venue for Skilled Artisans of the Region) Scheme of Airport Authority of India at Srinagar and Jammu airports.
The outlets will exhibit products manufactured by the Self Help Groups (SHGs) from all the 20 districts across the Union Territory. More than five lakh women, associated with SHGs, will get benefited due to the setting up of “Umeed Maket Place” as stalls will be offered to them for 15 days on rotational basis. These counters will also serve as a point for passengers to place bulk orders and request for customized demands for corporate gifting as well.
The marketplaces at the airports for the products manufactured in the rural areas are steps towards increasing the visibility of the SHGs in J&K and make the rural handicrafts available to the travellers at reasonable rates.
The “Umeed Market Place” will also provide an opportunity to the women artisans from rural areas to get accustomed with new market trends and modify their products as per the requirements of the customers.
The products of the SHGs will get exposure to the national market and would also provide the rural women artisans an opportunity to promote their products in a completely different environment.
Huge influx of tourists has turned the Srinagar and Jammu airports as the busiest places in J&K. Massive footfall at airports is a plus point for the “Umeed Market Place”.
Self Help Groups
At present, there are more than 56,000 SHGs in J&K and the government has set a target of forming 11,000 more SHGs by the end of this year. Soon after the Centre abrogated Article 370, a temporary provision in the Constitution of India in August 2019, the government embarked on a mission to empower the J&K women, who were the worst victims of the 30-year long Pakistan sponsored terrorism in the Himalayan region. Forming new Self Help Groups and activating the old ones were a part of the initiatives to empower women in the erstwhile princely state.
After the abrogation of J&K’s so-called special and its transition into a Union Territory, the Himalayan region has witnessed renaissance in Cooperative movement to address the developmental needs of underprivileged sections of the society.
Slogan of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi ‘Sahkar se Samriddhi’ is being implemented in letter and spirit with the focus on agri-marketing, food processing, branding, supply of seeds and other innovative activities in dairy and handicrafts. Women have become an integral part of PM Modi’s mission.
Reforms after Aug 5, 2019
Reforms introduced by the government after August 5, 2019, have led to J&K women becoming the fountainhead of the change. They have turned the SHGs in J&K as vibrant enterprises and have led from the front to bring the much needed development and empowerment in the region. The initiatives like Saath, Hausla, Umeed, Tejaswini, etc., have laid a strong foundation for financial independence of the women.
The J&K government has established MahilaShakti Kendras in all districts across the Union Territory with One Stop Center connected with helpline 181.
The Mahila Shakti Kendra scheme under the umbrella Scheme Pradhan Mantri MahilaSashaktikaranYojana (PMMSY) provides an interface for rural women to approach the government for availing their entitlements and for empowering them through awareness generation, training and capacity building.
Rural women prove their mettle
During the past three years the women from rural areas by the dint of their hard work and sincerity have proven it beyond doubt that they are no less than the women in urban areas.
Just a few years ago women, especially in rural areas across J&K, had only one role to play, i.e., to remain busy with the household chores. Becoming financially independent was not even an option for them. The bold decision taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi led regime to end the so-called special status of J&K led to overall improvement in J&K’s ground situation and the results are evident. J&K women, who were treated as commodities till August 5, 2019, have emerged as role models and inspirations for their counterparts across the country.
The women in J&K are no more scared of gun-totting terrorists, who used to throw acid on them for not wearing a burqa (veil). The helping hand extended by the government has led to the real potential of the women in the Himalayan region coming to fore.
The products manufactured by the SHGs run by the women have carved a niche in a fiercely competitive market. The women in the far-flung rural areas are keeping the wheels of socio-economic progress moving. The disparities and inequalities that existed in the J&K society for the 70-years have ended and women are being provided equal opportunities along with men. Many women, who used to remain confined within the four walls of their homes, have become successful entrepreneurs by getting a chance to work on their ideas.
The SHGs in the rural areas have brought women from different sections of the society closer to each other. They have become confident and are treading on a path which has made them believe that hard work, dedication and sincerity are keys to success.
The government is all set to honour 75 progressive women entrepreneurs from Rural Livelihood Mission Self Help Groups on the Independence Day as an acknowledgment for their contribution towards women empowerment.
Another big step
The initiatives taken by the government have infused a new sense of security among the women in rural areas. The women are actively participating in political activities also. They have become panchs, sarpanchs and the members of District and Block Development Councils. They are supporting men in all their endeavors and are sharing equal responsibilities.
The rural J&K has changed and women have been instrumental in bringing this change. They have given a befitting reply to terrorists and their supporters by shedding away the taboos and social stigmas. The “Umeed Market Place” at Srinagar and Jammu airports has provided them with yet another opportunity to showcase their talent and drive home a point that women from rural areas in J&K can compete with anyone in the world.