Our History

1985 – Shehnaaz, the founder member of Aawaaz-e-Niswaan during one of her court hearings against the unilateral talaq given to her met more women who like her who had been unilaterally divorced or were in some way affected by the patriarchal Muslim Personal Law. These chance meetings gave rise to discussions on the gender inequality in Muslim personal law and she filed a petition in court against it. The women decided to meet every Wednesday at each others house to guide women in circumstances like themselves and named this collective Aawaaz-e-Niswaan.

1988 - Marks a cultural period of the organization when songs and skits were written, most notably the song Mein Achi hoon ghabrao nako is written by Geeta Mahajan and Shehnaaz Sheikh. This song captured the essence of the daily lives of Muslim women in the ghettos of Bhendi Bazaar whose husbands worked in the Gulf and controlled them through a network of relatives and friends (Click here to read lyrics)

1990 - Ruhi Nasreen and Wahida Kondkari were killed by their in-laws for dowry and for the first time thousands of Muslim women came out in public against dowry murders. . The rally covered Muslim dominated areas such as Nagpada and Bhendi Bazaar and ended at Churchgate. (scanned photo)

1992- The efforts of our activism on the rights of Muslim women received a setback due to the riots following the demolition of Babri Masjid as women were seen as the primary bearers of the community identity. Almost immediately, women were pushed back into homes, the purdah became a common sight on the streets of Bhendi Bazaar, Mohmadali road and similar muslim dominated areas. In this volatile and dangerous situation members of AeN worked in relief camps and continued to try and bring some relief to women and men.

1997- With the growth of our work, a need to have a stable office space was felt and friends and members donated generously towards renting a space for Aawaaz-e-Niswaan. The growth of our work also made us realize the need for formal funding and after 12 years of its existence, Aawaaz-e-Niswaan was registered as an NGO under the Societies Registration Act 1860.

1999 – A conference on Muslim Personal Law and Women was organized to debate on the rights of Muslim women with a feminist perspective. The conference was attended by nearly 250 women. This conference gave birth to the Muslim Women’s Rights Network which went on to draft the progressive Nikahnama (Nikahnama hyperlinked) and a petition on Gender Just Laws for women.

2002 – marked a dark period in the history of the country where the Gujarat State machinery was involved in mass violence on Muslims. Unlike our earlier intervention in times of communal violence post the Babri Masjid demolition, we focused our energies not just on channelizing relief but also worked with other feminist organizations towards an International Initiative for Justice which brought together feminists from nine countries who had experience of working on issues of mass crimes and genocide. The aim of this initiative was to visibilize and speak about the sexual assaults on women during the massacre in Gujarat. (Click her for the report)

2003 – Aawaaz-e-Niswaan started a resource centre for women and girls in Mumbra a ghetto of muslims displaced by the ’84 Bhiwandi and ’92-’93 post Babri Masjid demolition riots. The centre boasts of a membership of 100 girls who otherwise have no access to progressive spaces. The centre has a library with nearly 5000 books, mostly Urdu literature and conducts a number of innovative courses for the girls to build their confidence and personality. The centre also offers scholarships to girls who would otherwise be unable to complete their education. The literacy course run at the centre has enabled a number of girls and women to re enter mainstream education.

OBJECTIVES of AAWAAZ-e-NISWAAN

  1. To build a strong women’s organization that would represent and realize women’s needs, aspirations and dreams.
  2. To create space, including political spaces for women.
  3. To visibilize the issues of Muslim women.
  4. To support women to take control of their lives with informed decision making.
  5. To bring about educational, economic and societal awareness among Muslim women so that they may be able to raise their voices against all forms of violence.