Qurat-ul-Ain Masoodi is a young and dynamic social worker of Kashmir who has worked extensively on orphans and was brain behind the much appreciated recent mass weddings initiative. She is founder of AASH Hope of Kashmir NGO/Trust
In an exclusive interview, Qurat-ul-Ain Masoodi talks to Farzana Mumtaz and Rameez Makhdoomi.
What prompted you to give practical shape to your recent mass marriage initiative in Kashmir?
I read a report in daily English daily that more than Ten thousand girls have passed marriageable age in Kashmir and I decided to do something on it, and I used to get calls from age 50 and more years women facing same issue .The conflict has hit us hard especially a daily wage class and this has resulted in this tragedy of girls of these families passing marriageable age. Nuclear families are in fashion and the compassion of that joint family is missing with poor girls thus being at receiving end. .Plus our marriages being a costly affair and females discriminated already , and thus getting them married was a weapon of empowerment.
I consider myself as connection between upper and lower economy class and there are the people who trusted my organization and wanted to donate for the same purpose.
A bit about your journey?
We started in the year 2011 AASH Hope of Kashmir and late Shujaat Bukhari mentored me lot and advised me to remain focused despite what people talk .I started from orphanage as orphans have always been close to my heart since my parents had separated when I was just eight month old . I have never seen my father. I believe you either could translate your hatred or vacuum in life towards destructive or constructive and I chanellized this energy towards positivity.
Although I never faced financial crisis but faced emotional pain. Missionary school education helped a lot in imbibing social work values in me .I was the first person who got orphanage closed down for abuse, although some people had advised me to just close eyes but I fought till success .
Have you faced as a prominent Social activist the tagging culture that is common in our part of the world?
Yes unfortunately there is a good section of people here believing in tagging, as a matter of great misfortune we are judgmental people and make immediate judgments without base. That section says the agency would be behind mass marriages or any other noble work. Why will any secret agency do philanthropic work or marriages of needy section. I keep on telling people social work is amazing and I admire and love when people join me for same .I come from a quite high profile background – my father has been academician at Harvard, mother teacher, Uncle justice at court and cousin politician. I choose social work by my passion as serving others is my goal.
Would you agree that social work is disorganized sector in Kashmir ?
We definitely have a disorganized social work sector as our tragedy is that those who study social work are after degrees and want to be in just academics not social work. I am currently studying social work and completed masters. I have seen even some government employees joining social work and other well settled not to help needy but to making careers and minting money out of it , for me social work is close to my heart as it is my passion to serve humanity especially those in need.
It is great tragedy that some people ask you what you do beyond social work for bread and butter not knowing this is 24 into 7 job and you do not have even time to take breathe .Our organization does not have enough money to get even my salary so I work as consultant for many organizations.
Are we society of more talks less actions and more active on social media than ground zero?
When we do facebooking or campaigns on facebook they are in no means real social work, we talk lofty things and use high-class English on facebook but do not do much on ground. The actual aim social work is to touch human lives and make a positive difference. I worked with a gangrape victim in year 2015 who was raped by a neighbor and gave her meaning to live and fought for her justice, it was unfortunately no news for media and journalists probably due to lack of sensation.
Are we careless as nation when it comes to donating ?
Yes the problem in this regard is we either give donation without credibility or make a baseless remark that everyone is thief. Now for a good section of people the trend is changing and they are coming to me and other credible organizations to donate with credibility. I would reaffirm neither easily trust neither totally resort to lack of trust adopt a wisdom based approach according to your own verifications, knowledge.
Whom would you credit the success of your mass marriage initiative ?
I have been able to involve students as students are my hope and these volunteers have been great help to me in making mass marriages event successful.
NGO’S have a wrong image here, your take ?
Someone had told me that NGO’s have a bad name and I replied that I have joined to change same . I did a sting operation and brought rot in open about an orphanage run by NGO open .
What changes would you like to see in social work sector in Kashmir ?
Accept social workers as social workers .Don’t be judgmental immediately. When you start organizations for purpose of social work do social work don’t look for your own benefits that then harms name of entire sector .
What is your message to those youth who want to go to social work?
I would like to say join social work sector only when you are passionate and don’t be in this sector just to mint money or achieve cheap limelight . I for long stayed away from media and if you get addicted to limelight your passion towards social work is lost .