#SheLeads: 'Only Formula For Success Was Education', Says Lawyer Who Founded Indian Union Women's League
Noorbina Rasheed is an alumnus of the US State Department Exchange Program on Women as Political Leaders in 2011.
Growing up in a very conservative Muslim family which was based out of Northern Kerala, I knew the only formula for success was my education. Hence, growing up in a traditional background added more hurdles to my goals, however, it did not deter me from walking the difficult path.
My entire family then migrated from Kannur to Calicut to support my higher studies, which was a very progressive step in an era when education was considered secondary for a Muslim woman.
Being the eldest of six siblings, I decided to take up the responsibility to educate all of my younger siblings. This was an opportunity not only to help them lead a dignified life but also make them understand the value of education.
I hold a Bachelor's in Law (LLB) from Calicut University and was the only Muslim woman lawyer practising criminal law in the 1980s. However, today, having more than three decades of experience in criminal, civil, and family laws, I work as one of the leading lawyers in Kerala and have established an all-women independent chamber operational since 1993.
Although I was working as an established lawyer in the 1990s, I knew that I did not want to stay confined to the four walls of the court. Despite facing strong opposition from conservative Muslim clergy, I decided to participate in the democratic discourse taking place in the country.
One of the most important milestones in my career was uniting the Kerala minority women and founding the Indian Union Women's League (IUWL), a women's wing of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) which empowered them by providing a platform in political affairs.
The organization now supports minority women communities across urban and rural India.
As the only lady member in the political affairs committee of IUML and the national general secretary of IUML, I have toiled hard to uplift the minority women in the country. Fighting against prejudice and being the voice of the suppressed women has inspired me over the years.
In 2011, as a part of the "Empowering Women & Girls through International Exchange" organized by US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, I was selected as one of the "100 Women" leaders from 92 countries by the United States for my long-term commitment to empowering members of Indian communities, including women and girls.
Apart from being one of the two Indian delegates to the US for the 100th International Women's day exchange program, I also represented Indian Women in exchange programs in the United Kingdom and launched several welfare programs for Indian ex-pats in the Middle East.
Having spent more than ten years as a Member of Kerala Women's commission and one of the two Muslim woman trainers in the Kerala State Mediation and Conciliation Committee(High Court of Kerala), I worked towards setting up "fast-track" courts to provide expedite justice, and rehabilitation to victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and other heinous crimes.
As a part of the mediation process, I have strived to provide alternative solutions to settle disputes outside the legal system through reconciliation, counselling and have successfully resolved hundreds of disputes through the mediation system in the past ten years.
The corruption intolerant approach has been instrumental in aiding me to utilize the public fund to develop critical infrastructure (including roads, bridges, houses, canals) during the ten years as a corporation council member and has contributed to the prosperity of the coastal belt in Calicut.
Having developed several co-operative societies for women, these have created a platform for women to be independent and successful.
In 2012, I was the general convener of "Thantedam Gender Fest," which was one of the largest podiums in India to highlight issues such as dowry, domestic violence, security, health, and economic visibility faced by women in the society and promote empowerment of women.
I have also been vocal against female foeticide. As a part of awareness of the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, I conducted several sessions and actively assisted the district administration in curbing the female foeticides over the past 20 years.
During my tenure as the Executive Director of Kerala State Literacy Mission, I worked towards setting up and implementing a continuous learning program for college dropouts and senior citizens across Kerala.
I believe that my life is a hope for every woman living in a patriarchal society and an example to women who aspire to lead and fight against injustice.
Note: This series #SheLeads is in collaboration with the US Consulate General Chennai as a commemoration of Women's Equality Day on August 26.
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