Working with Muslim adolescent girls is cathartic for me. My earliest memory of injustice is linked to my identity as a Muslim. Over time, being mentored by feminists, I began to understand the complexities of identities and their interplay with each other. While Muslim was a marginalized identity, a Muslim woman was almost like a double whammy. To it if one added sexual choice or caste or both, the situation was even worse. This understanding has informed the work I do.
After many years in the development sector, me and some friends decided that we wanted to focus our work with adolescent girls, taking forward the idea of peace. Peace in the home, in the neighbourhood, the world. The agenda of peace needs understanding and empathy. As opposed to peace, hate thrives on misconceptions and irrational fear of the other. To work towards peace, we needed to dispel the misconceptions fuelling hate and promote values of equality and empathy. Parcham was born out of this idea with the vision of a Just and Equal Society, respectful of Diversity, Celebrating Difference and Interdependence.
Parcham works to build bridges of friendship between communities hostile to each other. We started the first all girls football team in Mumbra, a Muslim ghetto, challenging the notion of the veiled Muslim girl. In this team we brought together Muslim and non Muslims girls for them to play together as teammates, respectful of each other rather than mistrusting each other. Through this intervention the girls were able understand the commonality of their oppression; in patriarchy which had to be fought together. We wanted them to focus on real issues: social, economic, political.
Being selected for the Collective Impact Partnership program was for me a recognition of my work and an opportunity to be visibilize Parcham’s work to an international network while having the opportunity to learn new skills. It was also an opportunity for Parcham to connect with other groups in Maharashtra, to build synergies and work on joint programs for greater impact.
The CIP program ended up being more than a networking space for me. The leadership training was respectful of the experience that we brought to the table. It challenged us to do more that what we had already accomplished, making us dream an audacious dream and then make a roadmap for it. I have CIP, especially Tanya and Abha to thank for pushing me to think of growing the football program to a national level now when we are still a volunteer led group without funding. It meant starting a FOOTBALL ACADEMY! Parcham had already in its first year of the football program accomplished the unbelievable: a reservation of a football ground exclusively for women and girls. A first such reservation in the entire country brought about by the determination of young girls! The CIP training took place at the opportune time with a year to the elections, the time for gainful advocacy. Following the CIP training, with the football academy on agenda and the elections around the corner, Parcham members decided to follow up on the reservation, to get the work on the stadium initiated. While the official announcement has been made, we await work on the ground. We are confident that soon women will have a space of their own, to play in peace, to occupy public space outside of domestic responsibility – going to the market or dropping children to school. This confidence will enable them to complete their education and become self reliant through employment. Through the football academy we will be reaching out to Muslim, Dalit and Adivasi girls, the most vulnerable groups socially and economically. This will also help build solidarities and peace.
I feel honoured to be have been accepted into the Leadership Program and grateful for the various opportunities provided to me through this platform including the opportunity to represent Rise Up and Parcham at the Women Deliver Conference 2019. At this conference I met other partners of the CIP. Latanya, the President and CEO of Global Fund for Women made time to hear about Parcham's work on arriving at solutions to barriers to Muslim women getting into the workforce in India. I appreciate her warmth and generosity in suggesting resources which would aid this study. I also met with Jensine and Dawn from World Pulse who are amazing motivators. Since I have returned from the Conference, I find myself logging onto World Pulse to draw strength from stories of women change-makers from around the globe. Denise, Founder and ED of Rise Up was constantly on a watch to connect us with people who might have interest in our area of work. Her leadership centred on mentoring other women to become powerful, helping them find their voice is an inspiration. The Conference helped me make connections which will further strengthen Parcham's work for which I am very grateful to CIP.
The final leg of the training is now on. Mary, the CEO of PHI is here with us through this week long training to get to know us better, like Denise was at the last week long training. Whoever does that? It is probably because they are women and understand the importance of connecting. And they teach by doing, helping us reflect and become better leaders.
If women have to lead, we need to help each other grow. We become stronger with the support of strong women. The CIP platform is one such beautiful space nurturing leaders and amplifying their voices and their campaigns. A BIG THANK YOU to all the wonderful women who thought of this brilliant platform!
This story was written for the CIP Blog. It has been modified to incorporate my experience at Women Deliver .
The Collective Impact Partnership, a partnership of five organizations, Rise Up, How Women Lead, the Public Health Institute, Global Fund for Women, and World Pulse who came together with the objective of building women leaders’ advocacy, individual leadership, and digital capacities to advance economic empowerment and justice for women and girls in Maharashtra.