A political party dedicated to empowering women has been launched by a Muslim woman entrepreneur from Hyderabad who has pitched herself against Asaduddin Owaisi’s Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM). Dr Nowhera Shaik, founder and CEO of Heera Group and a human rights activist, who has launched the All India Mahila Empowerment Party (AIMEP), is going to contest the next year’s Assembly election in Karnataka. Speaking to The Sunday Guardian about the need of a political party one of whose prime objectives is to empower women, Nowhera Shaik explained, “A political party is necessary for women to be able to empower themselves. Public policy plays a key role in ensuring that people get equal rights. We intend to mobilise women across the country and encourage them to join politics. If there are a higher number of women playing leading roles in politics, our case for women’s reservation bill will get stronger too.” Coming from a Muslim background, Shaik, who wears a hijab, made no bones about AIMEP being a political party for women across religion and castes. “I am not a Muslim icon. I intend to lead women of all religions and castes under the AIMEP banner. Though from the same region, AIMEP is different from MIM. Owaisi talks only about the Muslim cause. AIMEP is for all women in this country. Our ideologies are different too. I do not want AIMEP to be seen as a party for Muslim women only because I am a follower of Islam. Even in its nascent stage, AIMEP has a mixed membership,” said Shaik. Claiming membership of at least 16 lakh women cutting across all religions, AIMEP will fight its first election next year in Karnataka where Shaik plans to field candidates in all constituencies. Explaining the high number of members, Aakil, an NRI who was earlier based in Saudi Arabia and is now the Delhi State president of AIMEP, said, “A lot of women are associated with Shaik’s social work that has allowed them to earn their livelihood. Most of our primary members are people who have benefited from Dr Shaik’s philanthropy.”
The AIMEP agenda includes the demand for tax reliefs for women irrespective of whether they work in the government or private sector. It also wants relief in income tax for women entrepreneurs. Ensuring health and education services and strict measures to curb crimes against women are also the party’s agendas. On the issue of triple talaq, Shaik said, “I support the Supreme Court’s verdict on instant triple talaq, but the monitoring system is making it impossible for women to reap the benefits of the court’s decision. It would be better if the government could do more in terms of implementation.”
Nowhera Shaik’s Heera Group is a consortium of two educational institutions, and 18 companies dealing in diverse fields including, but not limited to, gold, investments, textile, tours and travels, real estate, electronics, Hajj and Umrah services, etc.