Mumtaz Shaikh is an advocate of women’s rights and fights for a simple cause: The Right to Pee. A passionate and a determined woman, she heads the Right to Pee campaign in Mumbai city and she has been awarded the ‘Daughter of Maharashtra’ recently for her efforts. A city with 3,000 public urinals for men does not have a single one for women. This was a matter of concern to her and henceforth lit the path towards restoring the dignity of her community who can now pee at times of their need.
A Mumbaikar, Shaikhs’s childhood was spent amidst utter poverty. Growing up, she saw her mother beaten everyday by her father and eventually leading her to became a victim too. Her mother planned to send her off to her uncle. When she grew up, her uncle hastily got her married to an equally abusive husband who did not even allow her to leave their home premise without his permission. At the age of 16, she became a mother and it was then when she decided to improve her situation or else her child would suffer the same fate.
She started volunteering with a local NGO CORO (Committee of Resource Organizations) that used to visit the slums after the men left for work. They threw light on various issues like domestic violence, hoping to empower the women. Mumtaz, who now grew attached to the organisation, realized that plaguing issues such as domestic violence, sanitation and illiteracy could only be solved by the intervention of the people living there. She actively involved herself in their campaigns, trying to raise awareness about the issue, but this created problems at her home. She took a stern decision of walking out of her marriage and with the strong support from her group, she was able to provide a permanent roof over her mother’s head. There was no looking back for her after this.
With the organisation’s help, Mumtaz and the other women from the marginalised families of the area were able to raise their voices against the evils. Mumtaz became the undisputed leader of the pack to voice the people’s rights. She also joined the permanent staff of CORO to actively mentor other grass root leaders. She helped in setting up over 75 self-help groups within her community to fight domestic violence and spread awareness about the issue in the area. Her being the forerunner of the Right to Pee campaign was a huge success. She has been a spokesperson on many occasions and her ardent persuasion had been received with appreciation by the city municipality who in 2013, mandated the women’s toilet block at every 20 km in the city further allocating Rs. 5 crore for the ongoing project.
In recognition of her efforts, she was selected for a fellowship by the international organization, Leaders Quest, for her advocacy of women’s rights and her activism against domestic violence. She plans to take her work forward by contesting for the 2017 municipal elections. The same community who were indifferent to her opinions earlier, now accepted her conviction and are supporting her in her work. Open defecation and urination has been a lingering issue and very few measures have been implemented in view of it.
PeeBuddy is one such invention which temporarily solves the problem of urination for women in unhygienic public urinals. However, the deeply rooted issue needs to be enacted upon sooner. Mumtaz is one such pioneer is bringing attention to this issue and achieving groundbreaking success in her endevours.