Why we fight: 5 Muslim women tell their story

India's Muslim women, often called a minority within a minority for their double handicap of gender and faith, are challenging medieval religious laws that have oppressed them for centuries. (see video)

In 2007, two women co-founded the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), a group that is leading this fight. When Noorjehan Safia Niaz (43) and Zakia Soman (50) came together to empower Muslim women, they did not imagine the response they would get.

The group, which is fighting fundamentalist interpretations of Islamic law (Sharia) as interpreted by men, has 35,000 members across 11 states today.

But ultimately it is not just the conservative male Muslim leadership that Muslim women want to change. They want society as a whole to see what Muslim women can do if people will only set the stereotypes aside.

The BMMA are using a powerful combination to drive change: the Quran and the Constitution. In 2014, they went a step further and drafted their own Muslim Personal Law.

The group is fighting to end polygamy and the practice of triple-talaq.

They also run vocational training workshops so that young women can become economically independent, which is one way to build confidence. Apart from creating leadership skills, they have also enabled micro-credit programmes.

Aastha Tyagi meets some members of the group in Mumbai; women who are confronting prejudice in their fight against extremism.

In the video, Noorjehan speaks about Islam and its relation to the Constitution. Khatoon Sheikh recounts her early days as an activist and how she she's had to overcome threats from male members of the community.

Bharti Shetty is among the few Hindu members who goes beyond religious lines to enable access between the government functionaries and disadvantaged women.

The last two interviews are of the younger generation that is preparing to lead the fight when their time comes. Aaliya Siddique and Neha Sheikh are both peer counselors who have seen the value that the group has added to the lives of the women around them.

For a detailed read about the group, see the whole story here.

Video shot by Aastha Tyagi, edited by Adiba Muzaffar.

Also read: Uniform Civil Code: forced majoritarianism or voluntary reform?

Aastha  Tyagi

Aastha Tyagi @snnickel