In line with AALI’s commitment toward the fulfillment of women’s human rights, the organization elected to concentrate the efforts of the Azamgarh Community Initiative on empowering local women to exercise the civil liberties to which they are entitled. As many Muslim women in Azamgarh live in purdah (link), they are particularly vulnerable to abuse and violence at the hands of the state, as they are unaware of, and therefore unable to assert, their legal rights. In considering the political and legal hurdles that Muslim men from Azamgarh currently face, the very women whose mobility has been restricted by local social norms are now being forced to emerge as the defenders and leaders of their families and communities. In most cases, however, they are ill informed regarding their own rights and are inadequately equipped to speak for their own interests, let alone those of their husbands, brothers, children, or neighbors.
AALI began conducting regular work in Azamgarh in 2009, holding workshops and trainings in schools and madrasas to build community awareness of human and legal rights. That same year, AALI surveyed multiple villages in Azamgarh to assess local need and evaluate the main issues faced by Muslim communities in the district. During that time, AALI recognized that many Azamgarh women are unable to avail of the legal benefits to which they are entitled, including ration cards, widow’s pensions, and educational schemes. As a result, where necessary AALI has focused on providing community members with information and training on gaining access to government services, in addition to holding rights-based and legal workshops.
In 2010, AALI opened a branch office in Azamgarh, the activities of which are dedicated to the advancement of the Azamgarh Community Initiative. In the organization’s second year working in Azamgarh, AALI staff identified a strong need for strategy development vis-à-vis fulfilling the programme’s objective of creating a leadership group of local Muslim women. Six villages were selected for intervention by AALI: Saraimeer, Sanjarpur, Fariha, Mubarakpur, Mangrawan, and Bilariyaganj. Along the same strain, in 2011 AALI selected six women leaders, one from each village, to bring forward their communities’ concerns.
The underlying principle behind AALI’s Azamgarh Community Initiative is that women need not be the direct targets of oppression to face violence or impact. Because women form an integral part of their communities, they become increasingly vulnerable to violations as their communities face external oppression. In Azamgarh, violations against Muslim communities by the government apparatus and the conditions of suspicion and fear to which these communities have been subjected has raised the need for collective action toward greater understanding and implementation of human rights mechanisms.
Key activities undertaken by the Azamgarh Community Initiative are:
To send an e-mail to AALI’s Azamgarh Community Initiative, please click here.
Read more about the women in Azamgarh here.