Three women have won seats in the Aligarh Muslim University cabinet, the largest ever female representation in the cabinet. They were, in fact, the only three women students who contested alongside 20 men for 10 cabinet posts; all three won. There have, however, been women in the cabinet earlier, the last being Kehkashan Khanam, a PhD student of Theology, who won in the last student elections. This time, Kehkashan contested this time for AMU Students’ Union vice-president.
The role of a cabinet member won by the three women is to ensure that problems faced by students at departmental and faculty level is taken up with the president, vice-president and secretary of the AMU Students’ Union. The three newly elected members describe what the victory means to them.
Sadaf Rasool, 23
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Sadaf is a veteran of the AMU campus, having taken admission in 2009, when she was in Class IX. Today she is a final year student of Bachelor of Unani Medicine and Science. She is the youngest of three daughters of city-based Ahmed Rasool, all of them studying in AMU.
“If one needs to see a change, he or she needs to bring it on their own,” Sadaf said. “Here in AMU, the university had only men in the cabinet, and women students couldn’t talk to the cabinet about their specific issues and problems. I wanted that to change, so I brought it.”
Sadaf said she went to the polls without preparing a manifesto and used the tagline that “all your problems are my manifesto”. She feels this clicked.
“Every student and faculty member has their own set of problems,” she said. “I can’t promise a computer to the computer faculty and colours to arts. So I will work as per the needs of each faculty. People liked that concept and I won.”
Ghazala Ahmad, 21
To the final-year Bachelor of Social Work student, the triple victory is a sign that AMU students want to see a stronger presence of girls in student politics. “Today three contested and all won. Tomorrow, let 20 contest and all of them will win,” she said.
So how did she convince an electorate that is essentially male – an official put the male-female student at roughly 60:40 in 17,000odd students – to vote for her? “I told everybody on the campus that the time has come to change the perception of AMU outside. I told them, let’s show the outside world that the AMU campus is friendly to girls,” she said.
Ghazala is a daughter of Raiees Ahmed, retired as accountant from Tibbiya College in Aligarh. She is fourth child among three brothers and two sisters. Her parents hadn’t been very happy about her decision to contest, she said, and even she had been nervous and hadn’t though she would win. She used social media to interact with students. She also spent nights in girls’ hostels to campaign.
Labiba Sherwani, 19
A commerce student until class XII, Labiba initially went to Abdullah College, also in Aligarh, before joining AMU and is now a first-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Social Work degree. Like the other two winner, she too is a local of Aligarh, the only child of Ghyas Sherwani, a real-estate businessman.
The reason girls hadn’t been winning frequently enough in AMU, Labiba said, was that they hadn’t been able to gather the courage to fight. She called AMU a male-dominated campus – 5,000 girls with no participation in politics, she estimated. But the election result have shown that students want a higher participation of girls, she said.
“The campus has girls too. Who will represent them?” said Labiba, who won 7,156 votes in the election on October 8. She had campaigned extensively on social media.
“In AMU there is nothing called personality development for students. Infrastructure is poor,” she said, describing what she had focused on during her campaign. “I will do my best to bring about the changes that are needed in AMU.”