Nazish Mir is following her faith and fighting for equal rights between men and women. In her story she shares how her heritage and beliefs have shaped her journey and stirred her passion for feminism.

My name is Nazish Mir and I am a Kashmiri Muslim. I was born in Kashmir and I moved to New Delhi at a very young age. I grew up in a supportive household that kept with modern Islamic values.

Being away from Kashmir, however, did not keep our family away from being an active part of the Kashmiri society, which indeed, while we are not physically there, is our reality. Having this reality hasn’t always been easy. Lebanese Palestinian Mona Hatoum once said: “A society where women have to be taught the art of cooking as a part of the process of being primed for marriage, I had an antagonistic attitude towards it all.” This explains the detachment I felt from the traditions and taboos of the Kashmiri society. A sense of claustrophobia and voicelessness that was easily accepted by these women as they held the needs and desires of their men above their own. I started to wonder “Why were men superior to us?” “Why did my mother put herself through a painful pregnancy to have a son?” and most importantly “Why do men hate us?” The more I read and searched, I realized it’s a global problem, and it started to stir feelings of feminism within me.

I was lucky to pursue my dreams as everyone in the younger generation in my house had the opportunity to travel and pursue studies abroad. I remember my father saying to me “You are the first person in our family to study abroad.” I remember questioning to myself why I was regarded as a role model for doing something a woman wasn’t expected to do or want.

My mother never had the chance to go to college or have a career because she was married at a very young age and was expected to take all the responsibilities of a “good wife.” I watched her closely growing up and wondered what she could have been if she had had the opportunity to pursue her dreams. Would she have been looked upon as selfish or disregarded in her own society or perhaps by her own family even though this would have given her economic freedom?

I have always had these questions in my head and have wondered how many women haven’t had the opportunity to pursue an education and are suffering and helpless. I am pursing an undergraduate degree in business administration and entrepreneurship in Spain and am currently at Pace University as an exchange student. Since becoming passionate about gender equality, I have been attending women empowerment talks, reading articles and undertaking research. I recently came across a book by Mona Eltahway called “Headscarves and Hymens” which further instilled my passion towards gender equality and misogyny.

In the world we live today, where women are excelling in all walks of life, there are still millions of women in the Middle East, North Africa and India who bear witness to their own violence and sexual and physical abuse to shield their families, societies and faith because of the presumptions of Muslim barbarism that gives rise to bigotry. It is not easy for me to speak about this, but I know that my Islam teaches us to respect women, to be forgiving, to be humble and to be kind. Why don’t men then take the example of how Prophet Mohammed treated his wife Khadijah, who was older than him and was the one who proposed to him for marriage? Where did this controlling aspect in the name of religion and tradition come from? Why haven’t gender roles evolved? My problem is with the bigots and the misogynists who view women as an embodiment of sin and deny them their rights.

I was raised by my father no different than a boy and was always told I can want or do anything that a boy can. I want us all to examine our silence, our ignorance and use our education and opportunities to speak of gender violence in the name of religion, culture and tradition. We must connect domestic violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and sexual street violence and call them all crimes against women. Why should women be asked to protect themselves from men and men not taught how to treat women? Why are men subject to exceptions, to sin as per convenience and women given the burden of honor?

Through my journey in pursuing a career in the field of business I hope to empower women and help in whatever way I can to promote equality and awareness and provide an opportunity for them to succeed and truly realize their potential.

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