Celebrating women power: Yamin Hazarika Woman of Substance Award 2016

RESHMA SHAH

Strains of Assam’s state anthem ‘O mur apunar dex’ marked the conclusion of the memorial meeting held in memory of one of the iconic daughters of Assam, late Yamin Hazarika. The second Yamin Hazarika Woman of Substance Award 2016 was presented to Tayabun Nisha, former athlete of Assam who represented India in the 1982 Asian Games.  She is the second recipient after noted author and columnist Indrani Raimedhi who received it last year. This award was institutionalised to honour late Yamin Hazarika, DCP, Delhi Police, who passed away while still in service.  She was the first woman police officer from Assam, a trendsetter in those times. The award is given by Women’s Hub, a collective of women professionals from around the country.

This year’s award ceremony was held on her 17th death anniversary (24 July) at Blue Paradise in Six Mile, Guwahati amidst an august gathering. Dr.

Dr Nahid Islam delivering the welcome address
Dr Nahid Islam delivering the welcome address

Nahid Islam, Consultant Psychiatrist, GNRC, in her welcome address, gave a brief overview of Women’s Hub. She said that this award is given to honour   and appreciate women from diverse fields who have made a mark against all odds.

The function opened with three books written by members of Women’s Hub being released by the guests. This event was co-ordinated by Dr. Shabnam Choudhury, Dental Surgeon. Noted writer Indrani Raimedhi released the book Aasroi written by Syeda Juneina Ahmed. Ahmed became emotional when talking about her late father who had inspired her to write.

Shantikam Hazarika, former head of Assam Institute of Management released Morjina Haque’s book Anutapto Prabansak, which is a set of short stories based on real-life stories. Morjina works as a postal agent at the Gauhati University Post Office and had initiated the South Kamrup Women Writer’s Forum. Dr. Dhruvajyoti Saikia, VC, Cotton College State University, released a book of poems by Tinat Atifa Masood. The collection, titled ‘10 on 20’, has random thoughts on love and drug addiction.

Dr Shabnam Choudhury conducting the book release function
Dr Shabnam Choudhury conducting the book release function

Sabrina Iqbal Sircar, Department of Political Science, Cotton College, moderated the Panel Discussion on the theme ‘Women: Breaking Stereotypes.’  The panelists were Nayama Ahmed, Assistant Jailor, Tezpur Central Jail, Darshana Sengupta, first Car Driving Trainer in the Northeast, Megha Kashyap, Program Corodinator for UTSAH, a child rights organisation, Afrida Hussain, programme head of Radio Mirchi, North East, Taanishi Inam, Entrepreneur and Purnima Devi Barman, wildlife activist.

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Sabrina Iqbal Sircar conducting the panel discussion

Nayama Ahmed spoke of the challenges she faced when taking up a job that was traditionally given to men. She said that one has to rise above the obstacles that come in the way of fulfilling one’s responsibilities.

Darshana Sengupta spoke of the need for women to take an active interest in their own well being. She said that she started a women’s car rally to inspire women to live life fully.

Megha Kashyap spoke of the challenges she faced when she gave up a secure future in a job to take up social work. She said women must come out of the restrictions imposed by society.

Taanishi Inaam quoted Malala Yusufzai who said, “I raise my voice not to shout but for the voiceless to be heard.” She shared a few tips on how to be successful: do not stuck with micro management, do not feel guilty about your work, and have different dreams to strive for. She added, “My goal is to be myself, and to challenge stereotypes, and to follow the rules, and break them, and make new rules. It’s not about doing something that’s already been done. This is what actually “Breaking the Stereotype” for me.”

Purnima Devi shared her experiences during her struggle to save an endangered bird Greater Adjutant Stork or Hargilla, in Assam. She spoke of the physical hardship she had to face and sacrifices she had to make to commit to such causes.

While summing up, Sabrina Iqbal Sircar asked the audience to reflect on who creates stereotypes and how they permeate in society. She said one should be aware of how such stereotypes hinder women’s development.

Yasmin Ahmed, sister of Yamin Hazarika, Indrani Deb, Chairperson of FICCI FLO, Swabera Islam, academician, Jabin Rahman Ghosh Dastidar and Huma Hazarika Sharma, daughter of Yamin Hazarika, felicitated the panelists.

Nellie Ahmed Tanweer, eminent educationist shared her impression of the late Yamin Hazarika, her cousin and friend, who she knew very closely. She recalled how, when going out for a family dinner, they spotted a man lying on the road fighting for his life and Yamin Hazarika immediately stopped the car and rushed the man to hospital. She said that for her cousin, work always came first. The late Yamin Hazarika was known since childhood for her quiet demeanour, hard work and for being a vivacious reader. Tanweer hoped that younger generations will be inspired to follow her example and make the nation proud.

Vikram Hazarika Sharma, Yamin Hazarika’s son, recalled the precious time that he and his sister spent with their mother. He said that they never felt neglected even though their mother was a busy police officer in Delhi.

Reshma Shah, Education Consultant, introduced the awardee Tayabun Nisha. She said that it was the undying spirit and hard work of women like Tayabun Nisha who can be an inspiration for younger generations.

The awardee was presented with a shawl, a salver and a bouquet.  In her acceptance speech, Tayabun Nisha said that she was touched by the gesture. She recalled her early days when she had to look after her younger siblings after her parents passed away. She also shared her adventures when travelling alone to different places to play. She advised the younger generation to lead a fit and healthy life by doing exercise regularly.  She suggested that such functions should be held at different educational institutions to inspire the younger generation.

Sheila Bora, noted historian pointed out that the women’s movement was just taking shape throughout the world when women like Late Yamin Hazarika broke many stereotypes and  joined a profession which was dominated by men. She said that the late Yamin Hazarika’s life will inspire many to follow in her footsteps.

Dr. Dhrubajyoti Saikia, the chief guest, said that backward societies such as tea tribes and scheduled castes need to be empowered. He said that society needs more Yamin Hazarikas to combat the problems in society.

Indrani Raimedhi, in her speech, said that one should also try to understand the forces that drive women to commit crimes. She announced that she will be dedicating her next book in the memory of Late Hazarika.

Anjumanara Begum, lawyer and activist recalled the struggles she faced when working on the ground with different communities in different parts of the world. Tinat Atifa Masood, the anchor for the evening, thanked everyone and advised the young girls present in the audience to be inspired to achieve more. Mehbooba Begum, Deputy Secretary, Legislative Department, Government of Assam delivered the vote of thanks.  

Reshma Shah is an Education Consultant based in Guwahati.