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Meet Khalida Baji: Sexagenarian Activist With A Never-Dying Spirit

Social media to social work, women empowerment to political activism, she has worked everywhere 

Nabila Mulla

HYDERABAD: Few women have dispelled patriarchal notions with sheer hard work, courage and determination as Khalida Parveen, a social activist from Hyderabad, fondly known as Khalida Baji. 

Now 65, Khalida Baji has been working for women empowerment through her NGO, Amoomat Society, which does everything from financially helping the needy to providing matchmaking services. 

Khalida Baji got into social activism when she was young, and hasn’t let age or husband’s death come in the way. 

Khalida Baji(Fourth from Left) after attending a workshop with police persons.

Amoomat Society was established in 2005 in Toli Chowki, a suburb of Hyderabad, with Khalida Baji as the general secretary. Khalida Baji didn’t know much about running an NGO and had little understanding of legal or technical aspects. But what kept her going was her sheer determination and steadfastness. And the task got easier with the support and help of her family, friends and like-minded people. 

Over the years, Amoomat Society has grown into a NGO that’s trusted by the needy and donors alike. And Khalida Baji has harnessed social media to the hilt in her endeavours. One example stands out. 

Recently, Khalida Baji took to social media seeking a used laptop for a college-going girl. In no time, several people offered their laptop. But once Khalida Baji received the laptop, she closed the query, saying the need has been fulfilled and no more help was needed. 

“For every project, we seek just the right amount of funds. Neither more nor less,” she tells India Tomorrow.

This not only speaks of Khalida Baji’s reach but also her moral conviction. “Every NGO faces financial problems,” she says. “People who once received help from Amoomat Society now help us raise funds.”

Amoomat Society also provides matrimonial services, including premarital counselling. The head of matrimonial service, Shehnaz Ilyas, says they focus more on the priorities and desires of women than the wishes of their families. The marriage bureau is also manned by assistant Shehnaz Begum and office secretary Asiya Nusrat. 

Another area of Amoomat Society’s work is raising legal awareness and helping people during unforeseeable events. 

Khalida baji in a workshop by Hyderabad Police.

The sudden, unplanned lockdown earlier this year dealt a huge blow to numerous people. Although the offices of Amoomat Society were closed, Khalida Baji’s social activism wasn’t. She helped the needy, especially migrant workers, feeding and clothing them. She got going from the first day of the lockdown in March, and has so far distributed thousands of facemasks and nearly 35,000 food packets to the needy. 

Following a rise in Covid-related deaths, Khalida Baji started an ambulance service to transport the bodies from the mortuary to the final resting place. The service was available to everyone, regardless of their religion. According to Khalida Baji, she started the service after noticing that ambulances were charging anywhere between Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000. Khalida Baji’s ambulance service prompted the local Member of Parliament to launch a similar service the next day, with two ambulances. Many organisations followed suit. Khalida Baji also helped perform the last rites of Muslim Covid victims through video calls. 

The lockdown saw a sudden spurt in cases of domestic violence. Khalida Baji and her team were flooded with phone calls from distraught people, some of whom even wished to end their lives. But she and her team counselled them in the light of the Qur’an and Hadees, and provided them with sufficient resources. 

During the agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR), Khalida Baji actively led numerous flash protests across Hyderabad, for which she was sometimes detained by the police. Baji has vowed to establish a ‘Shaheen Bagh’ in Hyderabad once the anti-CAA agitations resume. 

Telangana, of which Hyderabad is the capital, doesn’t have a women’s commission for two years now. Many organisations have been demanding the appointment of the commission’s chairperson and several activists have filed RTI queries but the state government is dilly-dallying. 

Khalida Baji has supported the demand, saying that establishing the women’s commission in the state would help speed up the investigation into pending cases of violence against women. 

The recent floods in Hyderabad rendered innumerable citizens homeless and penniless. Khalida Baji provided groceries, clothes and shelter to the affected families in her neighbourhood. 

Flood-hit families receiving food kits from Amoomat Society

A hallmark of her social activism is that she has always kept government authorities in the loop. She also actively campaigned for the Welfare Party of India, which strives for value-based politics. 

Khalida Baji is active on social media and keeps up with technology. Her Twitter (@kparveen2005) and Facebook accounts bear testimony to this. She plans to launch a YouTube channel soon. 

Another field of her active engagement is the mainstream media. She is frequently quoted in news and feature stories that appear in newspapers. She also appears on regional and national television, and is as fluent in Telugu, Malayalam and English as she is in Urdu. 

The social activism hasn’t deterred Khalida Baji from building her connections with the Almighty. She takes time off for Namaz and fasts regularly during non-Ramazan days. 

At 65, she is the true definition of a multitasker and has shown how an individual can contribute to the community and society at large.

(Nabila Mulla is a freelance journalist based in Hyderabad. She can be contacted at [email protected])

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