THUMB PRINT CHANGEMAKER SERIES
NAYAMA AHMED, ASSISTANT JAILOR, TEZPUR CENTRAL JAIL
Nayama Ahmed is a trendsetter. She is the first woman from the Muslim community to be a prison officer in Northeast India. As a prison officer, she is keen to work as a social reformer from the boundaries of the prison, where a large number of criminals are confined as there is increasing rate of crime committed by the youth and against women. For her commendable service, she was recently honoured by FICCI FLO with the Women Achievers’ Award 2017. Noted fashion designer Rina Dhaka gave away the award. “FICCI FLO Northeast chapter honours women who have contributed in women empowerment and taught women how to lead a self-driven life with dignity,” said Indrani Deb, Chairperson, FICCI FLO.
Initially, Ahmed had to face many challenges. Hailing from a community that did not encourage a woman to join a khaki profession which deals with criminals and anti-social elements like rapist, murderers, she managed to break many glass ceilings. Moreover, her job entails 24×7 duty hours with no regular holidays which made it very difficult to juggle family responsibilities along with her work. In addition, working at odd hours in early morning and late night makes it even more complicated. But she was determined to overcome all odds and emerge as a proficient prison officer.
She had secured first class third position in M Sc geography from Gauhati University 2001-02 for which she was awarded the Late Rupram Bora Memorial Award by the Jagaran Sahitya Sabha in Nogaon. She is also an accomplished artist and has completed a course in Fine Arts. She had joined Assam Jail Service in 2011 and joined Nogaon Central Jail in 2011-14 and later was transferred to Tezpur Central Jail in August 2014. Active in sports, she had won awards for arm wrestling in Gauhati University and is now taking lessons in Karate.
She is consistently working on the reformation of the prisoners specially the female prisoners. She tries to rehabilitate them by involving them in various vocational and educational activities, so that, they become useful citizen after their release from jail. She even takes time off from her busy schedule and personally takes Mathematics classes every Sunday for the prisoners who are studying in K.K. Handique Open University Study Centre. She tries to motivate the female prisoners to their education so that they become useful citizens.
Adept in hand embroidery work as well, Ahmed personally imparts training to female prisoners. It helps them to learn something new. “I get clothes myself and make them sit and learn. I got them wool this year. I taught them to make They are make crochet shawls. We want to large-scale production and set up a jail outside. We already have a sale point for handicraft items,” says Ahmed. She wants to set up an industry to manufacture incense sticks.
Ahmed recognizes the importance of self-development and improving the mental health of the jail inmates. She conducts and co-ordinates several physical and mental activities like games, yoga and meditation sessions for them.
She took personal initiative to open a cloth bank to collect used cloths from the general public and distribute the same among the needy prisoners and the children with the female prisoners. The female prisoners feel comfortable discussing their health and other problems with her. Ahmed educates the inmates on sanitation and hygiene, benefits of hand washing properly and washing their clothes properly and distributes soaps to them. “I personally check the toilets,” she adds.
She also talks to them about menstrual hygiene and distributes sanitary pads produced in the jail itself. The jail has its own production unit which produces these reusable and washable sanitary pads. The jail has a weaving section and that produces the sanitary pads.
Jail is supposed to be a correction home. “I want to deal with female prisoners especially the habitual offenders. I feel life skill development workshops should be held so that they don’t come back,” says Ahmed.