KS Saleeka took an arduous journey from being panchayat head to become Kerala’s only Muslim MLA. She is among less than one per cent Muslim women in our state assemblies and Parliament.
Saleeka’s grit and determination may be an inspiration for many Muslim women to plunge into electoral politics. However, their lack of knowledge about political structure and legal system act as a stumbling block for their political advancement.
To politically empower Muslim women, the Union government has decided to train them for better participation in elections, besides taking benefits of the welfare programmes and fighting for their rights.
A unique scheme initiated by the Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry will also help Muslim women like Shakeela Begum, who has been running from pillar to post to register a police case for being thrashed during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
“Many Muslim women feel left out because of their inability to fight for their rights due to illiteracy. We would train them on how to lodge a complaint with police and fight legal battles,” a WCD ministry official said.
Low participation of Muslim women, the government believes, had been a prime reason for perceptible poor impact of government programmes for minorities.
Twenty-five per cent Muslim children in the age group of 6-14 have never attended a school and about one-third Muslim villages have no educational institution. Muslim women have virtually no access to government schemes. It is evident from the fact that 40 per cent of Muslim-dominated villages have no medical facilities.
In the pilot stage the scheme is likely to be initiated in 15 Muslim-dominated districts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal at a cost of Rs 5 crore. Later, the scheme will cover all 49 Muslim-dominated districts in India.