Jammu: In an attempt to bring about a social change in strife-torn Kashmir, women in the border and rural areas of the state are stepping out of their homes to broaden their horizons and get a glimpse of the rest of the country.
35 women from terror-affected areas of Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir have gotten to tour India, thanks to the Nari Shakti Shanti Path Par project, which has been started in collaboration with the Army.
Most of these women have led extremely insulated lives, not having been to any school, nor venturing beyond their village's boundaries.
However, they are undaunted, even excited to have made the trip.
"We are feeling empowered now," says Kaneez Begum, a resident of Noushera in Rajouri. "Earlier, we used to look at the army passing by in our areas and were awed by them. Now, we have travelled with them. We feel we are also capable of doing something," he said.
Clearly, the chance to see how the other half lives has opened new vistas for these women.
Tanzeem Akhtar, another resident, plans to use her recently acquired knowledge of fashion in cosmopolitan cities, such as Delhi, to teach girls in her village.
"I work in a stitching centre and now I am going to tell girls how to dress up and use make-up," she said.
The Army hopes that interaction like these will help bridge the divide between Kashmiri civilians, which was exacerbated recently with the killing of government school-teacher Abdul Rashid Mir last week.
"It (the initiative) has reduced the gap between the Army and the civilians," said Lt Ruchika Goel. "We lived with them in the same place, we ate together. They should not feel we are different," she opined.