Dr Shehnaz Ganai is the first woman doctor to become a lawmaker in a state where barring Mehbooba Mufti no other woman politician has made a mark for herself. Coming from a political family and being a doctor, she is dissecting the system to make it responsive and establishing herself as a political figure.
The male-dominated state assembly has 87 seats in the lower House and 34 in the upper House (total 121 seats) and only six women legislators and only one woman cabinet minister. Barring PDP president Mehbooaba Mufti, and to an extent NC MLA and cabinet minister Sakina Itoo, no other woman legislator has made a mark for herself in the parliamentary structure.
In such a scenario, where tides are against women political activists, Dr Shehnaz Ganai, National Conference MLC, has in a brief period of six months established herself as a serious political voice.
"The assembly or Parliament is the highest forum in a democracy. It's where we can speak about the concerns of people and change the economic and political landscape," says Ganai.
Ganai is one of the four MLCs who were elected directly from panchayat quota for the upper House. The panchayat elections were held after three decades.
Within a few days of her becoming the legislator, she registered herself by staging a walkout when her private member resolution on the hill councils for Rajouri and Poonch districts was dropped from the list of Business. It was the first walkout by any of the four elected MLCs from the panchayat quota and first by woman legislator of the ruling party.
"Border districts of Poonch and Rajouri have suffered economically more than any other part of the state. Hill councils on the pattern of Ladakh hill Development Councils should be made for these two districts. It is genuine demand and should be discussed," she said.
Dr Ganai, after doing MBBS from Government Medical College did her PG from Osmania University and also PG diploma from Symbiosis Institute. Her late Ghulam Mohammad Ganai was one of the tallest NC leaders in Poonch and a minister.
Her initiation in politics started quite early as she would go with her father on his tours and watch him interact with people.
"It's there where I realized that a lot needed to be done even for basic facilities for people, especially in remote areas, whose voices are not heard. There is huge scope for improvement," Dr Ganai added.
She joined the medical department and served as assistant surgeon in Poonch district. In 2005, her true calling came while working for an NGO named after her father for the families affected by earthquake in Poonch. Seeing distress and helpless families, she decided to join politics.
She quit her job and formally joined NC in 2007. She was strong contender in that year itself for the Assembly ticket but denied at the last moment, but she didn't hang up her boots. Her moment came, when in 2012 she became the first woman to be elected from the panchayati quota.
Geenai has been since then being consistently raising voice of female and people of her constituency. "If we have to bring change then we should be part of the system to change it rather then being fence sitters. If the system is irresponsive and one has to plunge in it to make it respond," says Ganai.