By Lekshmi Gopalakrishnan Thiruvananthapuram, Mar 14 (PTI) When a Muslim girl insisted on continuing her higher studies decades ago, it amused her traditional family as education was largely considered secondary for the community women then.
She later sprang a surprise, taking up criminal law as her profession in the 1990s and continued to upset conventional clergy by actively engaging in politics, propagated as taboo for women by them.
Now, Noorbina Rasheed, the soft-spoken but strong leader of Indian Union Muslim League, is all set to break another glass ceiling by plunging into the electoral fray from Kozhikode South, becoming only the second woman to be fielded by the party in an assembly election.
'A Muslim woman becoming a criminal lawyer was a shock and surprise for many that time. I have been a practicing lawyer since the early 1990s,' Rasheed told PTI in an interview.
If she emerges victorious in the April 6 election, her name will be scripted in history as the first IUML woman legislator of Kerala.
'In my experience, what I strongly feel is that power is an inevitable factor to find speedy and effective solutions to any issues especially those related to women,' she said explaining the need to contest elections.
Amidst criticism against lack of women representation in the party's leadership as well as in the assembly, the IUML has picked this lawyer-turned politician as their candidate, bucking a 25-year long practice.
With this, the party, a key partner in the Congress-led United Democratic Front, aims to send out a strong message that it would not bow down to the pressure tactics of conservative clergy and religious groups who do not want women to come into positions of power.
The IUML had notfielded any woman in the assembly or parliament elections after Qamarunnisa Anwar, the Woman League leader who had contested from then Kozhikode II constituency in 1996, but lost to CPI(M)'s Elamaram Kareem by 8,766 votes.
However, Rasheed said she has always been hopeful that the IUML would surely give an opportunity to women.
'I am a person who likes to see everything in a positive manner. So, I am very happy and proud that IUML has given a seat to a woman this time. The party has actually respected the women community through this,' she said.
The founding general secretary of the Indian Union Women's League (IUWL), the women's wing of the party, and its national general secretary for several years, Rasheed is also the state secretariat member of the IUML.
In her three decades of public life, she also served as a councillor of Kozhikode Corporation, a member of the Kerala Women's Commission and in the Literacy Mission.
The woman leader, who is in her late 50s, said she was able to intervene in public issues in various capacities throughout these years.
More women should foray into politics and be active in social issues, she said, adding education and political empowerment are the only solutions for the progress of Muslim women.
'If women want to succeed in their lives, they should learn the act of balancing also. I can proudly say that I have managed my family well, looked after my three children, taken care of my husband and carried forward my professional career as a lawyer along with politics,' she said.
Both a criminal lawyer and a family counsel, she is very much active in her profession even amidst her political engagements.
A member of the Kozhikode Bar for the last 30 years, Rasheed said she was busy at her office even when her candidature was announced two days ago.
'I have been a practicing lawyer since early 1990s. My office is an all-women space.. every person, right from juniors to clerk is a woman,' she said.
The IUML leader said even if she wins the assembly polls, she would not leave her profession as it was her identity and politics is for service only.
Hailing from an aristocratic family in Thalassery in northern Kannur district, Rasheed's parents were progressive and stood with her always.
Though her conservative relatives were against sending girls to colleges for advanced studies, her parents allowed her to join the famed Providence College in Kozhikode district, a well-known Christian institution, she said.
They had also rejected the opposition within and outside the family for sending her to the trhen newly opened Government Law College in the same district when she wanted to pursue law degree.
She said her husband, C P M Abdul Rasheed, an IRS officer, was all support for her taking part in political discourses, which helped her become an active politician.
When asked what prompted her to join IUML as there were several other options before her, Rasheed said she was very particular to join a minority community-based party.
'If I want to do something for the minority communities and its women members, I have to be part of a minority party or outfit. Because, the correction should be made from within.
We should have carved a space for ourselves within such a party.Thus, the IUWL was formed during 1990s,' she added.
Optimistic about her victory in the April 6 polls, Rasheed said she would strive to improve the basic infrastructure and other amenities of the constituency and give more focus on the issues of women and children if she gets elected to the assembly.
Kozhikode South, with a sizeable Muslim population,has been held by the IUML since 2011. PTI LGK VS VS