Tides of change as Kashmir gets first women's magazine
14 April 2006
The Daily Times
Srinagar: Kashmir saw its first women’s magazine hit the newsstands this week, but while issues such as dating and working mothers are on the contents page, politics and Islam are not. “She” reflects changes in the conservative Muslim state, where women are increasingly faced with the kind of choices that more liberal societies have been dealing with for far longer, the magazine said in its launch edition. The first issue addresses topics ranging from beauty tips to breast cancer; from teenage dating to dilemmas facing working women battling to juggle careers and families. “Societal changes have brought about new problems for women that our previous generations of sisters didn’t have to face,” the English-language magazine said in an editorial. In its inaugural issue, “She” carried profiles of six young Kashmiri women who have carved out niches in journalism and television. That an increasing number of Kashmiri women are now working in banks, post offices and other areas indicates an important shift in a society where men had previously been seen as the lone breadwinners. “The magazine has been launched to create awareness among Kashmiri women about their rights and address women’s issues,” co-editor Saima Farhad said. She stressed, however, that “She” would not tackle sensitive topics such as religion. The magazine is the brainchild of Sheeba Masoodi. The 27- year-old, who wears a headscarf, is married to Muslim cleric Umar Farooq, the spiritual leader of millions of Kashmiris and head of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) separatist alliance. Although theirs was an arranged marriage, the two courted by email before they married. Many Kashmiri women have come out in support of the magazine. “There’s no harm in discussing issues that confront women and girls,” said schoolteacher Parveena Akhter, who believes Masoodi “has taken a bold step by launching ‘She’”. Despite the region’s strict moral codes, young Kashmiri couples over the past few years have openly dated in parks, restaurants and Internet cafes, often drawing the wrath of their elders. In addition, Islamist extremists as well a leading women’s separatist group have repeatedly failed to enforce the veil in Jammu and Kashmir. “We may not be discussing dating with our families but the fact remains such things are happening in our society, though covertly,” said Muslim Jan, who teaches journalism at Kashmir University. “Masoodi has shown courage in highlighting such issues and I appreciate her.” Masoodi was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. She is the daughter of US-based doctor Sibtain Masoodi, who migrated to the United States from Jammu and Kashmir in the 1970s. She holds a Master’s degree in social work and is keen to maintain a low profile. Masoodi declined an interview with AFP.