Home Indian Muslim Meet Waseema Shaikh: A deputy collector from rural India

Meet Waseema Shaikh: A deputy collector from rural India

Waseema with her parents

Nikhat Fatima, TwoCircles.net

Born and brought up in a small village called Joshi Sanghvi in Loha Taluka of Nanded District of Maharashtra, Waseema Shaikh struggled at every step and braved the odds to be where she is today.

In the recently announced results for the Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC) exam, Waseema secured 3rd rank. She is now undertaking training for the post of Deputy Collector.

Joshi Sanghvi is a small village with a population of about 3000 people and there are no opportunities for girls to study because they are married off as soon as they reach puberty. After class 7, the girls are forced to drop out of school. The maximum a girl can study in Joshi Sanghvi is till class 10. There is no college in the village, just a Zilla Parishad school in Marathi medium.

Waseema, the 4th child of her parents who are poor farm labourers, was passionate about studies. Despite having no electricity in their hut, she topped in the SSC board in her Taluka in 2012. And for college, she had to walk at least 6 kilometres every day as there was no transport available. However, when the exams for XII of junior college approached, she stayed at a relatives’ house and wrote the exams.

But graduation was again an uphill task as she would have to move away from home and stay in a hostel which her family could not afford.

She opted to study from an Open University and thus pursued her graduation from Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University again in Marathi medium. Though her mother tongue is Urdu, Waseema is comfortable studying Marathi. She became the first graduate in her family of 6 siblings.

Her parents are both farm labourers and after her father fell sick, affecting his mental capabilities, the burden fell on the shoulders of her mother.

Her mother and elder brothers encouraged her to study despite the situation in the village where relatives kept advising them to get Waseema married off like her elder sister.

Waseema appeared for the MPSC exams for which she prepared through self-study as she could not afford coaching classes. She passed the exams, but her ranking was just good for a Class II post and she was appointed as a sales tax officer for the Maharashtra Sales Tax Office in Nagpur.

However, it was payback time for Waseema. She put her brother back in college to pursue his B.SC degree and then appeared for the MPSC exams as was his ambition. She is also taking care of her younger 2 sisters’ education, who like her want to appear for the state civil services.

But evidently, a class II job was not enough for her so she appeared again for the MPSC and ranked among the top 5, scaling her position to that of Deputy Collector.

Waseema with her siblings

“The situation in my village where girls are not encouraged to study and forced into marriage, violence against women, poverty and poor infrastructure in the village often set me thinking what I can do to change this situation? Besides, my friend who was very good at studies and wanted to study further was married off when we were in class 9. This upset me a lot,” Waseema told TwoCircles.net.

It was this desire to empower girls and women which motivated her to appear for the MPSC exams.

Sanghvi Joshi village has a sizable Muslim population as it was in the erstwhile Nizam state of Hyderabad and now acceded with the Marathwada region.

Today the village is proud of their daughter who is the first person from their village to reach that level. She has become the idol for many young girls who are in school.

“Many girls used to come up to me to talk about their concerns when their parents wanted them to stop their studies or when their parents were looking for matches. I used to give counselling to the parents and persuade them to let their daughters study,” Waseema said.

She said she was pained that girls’ education is never a priority for parents.

Waseema said that parents of girls should become aggressive about the educational rights of their daughters. “The percentage of women in civil services is very less and I think to increase this we should have reservations, free coaching, scholarships exclusively for women so girls will be encouraged to aspire for civil services,” she said, and added, “Proper guidance, hard work, consistency in study hours, the best utilisation of resources available are equally important.”

“But I am fortunate that my mother and my brother encouraged me and I am so grateful to my brother who sacrificed his education for me when anyone else in his place would think it futile to educate a girl,” Waseema said.

It was her brilliant academic performances year after year that gave confidence to her mother and brother to let her pursue her dreams.

Waseema wishes to be posted in a rural backward place like her village so she can work for their betterment. “I want to develop the villages and help the people come out of their poverty. I have known what it is to be poor and experienced the hardships so I can empathise with the people”, Waseema said.

Waseema got married on June 8, a few days before her MPSC result, to Shaikh Haider who is also a Maharashtra Public State Services (MPSC) aspirant. “Yet again Allah has been kind to me, my spouse and my in-laws are supportive of my career and are proud of me,” she said.

waseema and Haidar