Hailing from Sogam Lolab in the Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehnaza Rashid is a young community-based human rights defender. While her father rendered services for the Police Department of Jammu and Kashmir in various capacities, her mother raised their five children – three daughters and two sons – with the utmost care, ensuring all access to quality education. Mehnaza, a social work post-graduate, has worked with disadvantaged communities over the last seven years to enable them to access their rights. She has been associated with ActionAid Association since 2022 and has been tirelessly supporting our initiatives related to education, social security and livelihoods in Kupwara.
Engaging with communities and empowering them to assert their rights involves untiring efforts by human rights defenders. As part of her interventions with ActionAid Association, Mehnaza carries out door-to-door campaigns and uses tools such as social media to mobilise and collectivise communities in Kupwara. She also engages with concerned government departments and district officials, all aiming to pull communities out of marginalisation. For example, as part of our #BackToSchool campaign, Mehnaza sensitises community members on the importance of education, focusing on girls’ education and helping bring out-of-school children into schools. She also enables their access to various scholarship schemes to ensure their continued education.
Furthermore, Mehnaza is building awareness among communities and training concerned stakeholders on Integrated Social Security Schemes (ISSS) run by the Government to enhance the social security of marginalised sections of society. She also facilitates registration of those eligible under the Old Age Pension Scheme and Women in Distress Scheme under ISSS, followed by their linkages to the due entitlements.
Mehnaza is a proud recipient of the Kashmir Young Leadership Award 2021; she was felicitated by the Honourable Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Shri Manoj Sinha, for conducting significant relief work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her committed work with communities has brought her several other awards and recognitions. As Mehnaza now pursues courses in early childhood care and education; and in nutrition and health education, she also strengthens her resolve to dedicatedly continue supporting and empowering communities, particularly women and girls.