I abhor every discrimination: Tehmeena Rizvi

She lives by the lines of Amrita Pritam, “Jaha Bhi Azaad Rooh ki Jhalak Pade, Samajna Woh Mera Ghar Hai” 

Tehmeena Rizvi is a name to reckon with when it comes to the field of public policy and women & child rights. She is a Policy Researcher,  Public speaker and advocates for gender justice, inclusion, Women leadership and development.

She talks in an exclusive interview with News Kashmir. 

A bit about your early days ?

I was born and brought up in small town of Magam in Budgam District ,located near  world famous tourist spot  Gulmarg. My family and extended family are all in business, and even those who were highly educated got into business. I was always labelled as “Baaghi a Rebel” from my childhood and a tagline I live upto. And it’s very obvious that women who don’t participate in patriarchy are called names and rebel is one of them.  I belonged to what our society calls Upper Caste Syed Family but never believed in Caste system, or any gender discrimination.  I abhorred every inhuman tendency and looked at every human from the prism of humanity and never differentiated between black and white, rich and poor,  upper or lower as I don’t believe in any grading. I was forced to believe in these segregations of different forms but I couldn’t do that. The way my childhood shaped my personality, I think  my father played a very major role in that- he was very keen to provide me with  different types of surroundings and was very interested in my studies and my overall development. He made sure that I read newspapers everyday to keep myself updated, he got me scooty immediately after my 11th class, and none of the girls around had a scooty and it came as a shock for some people. He was advised by his acquaintances that he is doing too much for me and should keep in mind that I am a girl, but he never bothered about that. He raised me like a boy, though I have my reservations about this concept. You can raise a strong headed girl, she doesn’t need to be raised like a boy but the society hardly recognises this segregation. I am the first woman from my family who pursued higher studies and that too in social sciences despite coming from a conventional business family. Also, left Kashmir for studies, Have lived on my own from a very young age and I will continue with this journey because i believe that “we should never stop learning”

A bit about your academics?

 I am a Business graduate from Gandhi Memorial College, a volatile college full of diverse backgrounds. Business was my primary interest because of  my upbringing in the same environment. Later, I realised that I am more zealous towards knowing society, human behaviours (How we are as an individual and in a group), so I changed my subject from business to social sciences. I took keen interest in social work especially women and child issues in the final year of graduation, mainly because of the discrimination i was seeing around and i wanted to fight against it.  

I prepared for Civil service exams but due to some issues with the JKPSC, exams were postponed, so I went to Delhi and started preparing for IAS ,but after two failed attempts, I gave up. Failure was not an issue for me but wasting my time was, i was very hyperactive when it comes to studies or work. So I applied for masters and continued my journey of learning. Meanwhile, I joined Policy Perspectives Foundation as a Policy Researcher. 

Your recent achievements?

I have been the speaker at the United Nations 43rd and 50th session of the Human Rights Council (Geneva), my primary focus was women’s rights in conflict. 

In Delhi I worked from a very young age of 21 in Public policy. In between these 6-7 years years I have worked on various issues with different departments, which includes research on implementation of POCSO Act in Delhi NCR with Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights. I also kept learning and utilised my time in pandemic as well. I have also completed my course on “Inter religious Dialogue to strengthen peace” from KAICIID ( The king abdullah bin aziz international centre for interreligious and intercultural dialogue) and another course in “Religious engagement in Peacebuilding” from USIP (United states institute of peace)

Your work as a volunteer and in the media ?

While I was working in Delhi, my work as an activist got recognised for the Ivolunteer awards. I was also working with a Media company, ICN media group as Bureau Chief J&K, and was awarded the youngest bureau chief award there as well.

Your views on Public policy?

Well Public policy for me is very important in the current world dynamics, to solve real world problems. But, working in public policy is not an easy task, it requires continuous studying like a student and looking at a problem from different angles. It’s a very democratic process and is much required, basically Policies made on behalf of the “Public”.  This field helps you understand societal issues at a much deeper level and come up with concrete policies and vision to tackle the same. In India, there is a dire need of inculcating more women in public policy. I consider myself lucky enough to be working in an organisation where most of our policy researchers are women. I believe that I am in this profession because of being very observant and inquisitive in nature. I had a lot of questions regarding the systems and practices present in the society, so instead of counting the problems, I decided to find the solutions. Though i can’t completely say that i have found everything but i am on my way there.

You were the women ambassador for globally famed MeToo from Kashmir. How did that happen?

When I was working in Kashmir, it really took me by surprise that no one came forward for this campaign because girls are afraid of society and their judgements. So I decided to stand against all odds and fight for it. I made a lot of reports for this and handed over those to CEEO India official who then helped me to submit the same to the Ministry of Women and Child Development. I used to meet girls (who had faced harassment, violence etc) very cautiously, keeping in mind their safety and was really not bothered about my image etc because I was so hell bent to bring in a change.

Your message ?

I think my message will be for young Kashmiri Girls and other women as well that we should stop caring about what society thinks about us, it’s a never ending circle and deeply engulfing. People will talk behind your back even if you were doing everything right. Youngsters who want to go for research and public policy should keep themselves engaged in studies on a daily basis and try to understand the various problems the world currently faces. Overall, i believe that we need to respect diversity and have tolerance for differences. Above all be a human full of empathy, compassion and a will to work for the society, without any  bias or discrimination.