Female YouTubers of Kashmir

Kashmir has long been known for its beautiful valleys and mountains, and tourism there has increased significantly. To attract more visitors, JK Tourism also held a series of road shows across the country. And some Kashmiri people have taken over social media sites like YouTube and Facebook to present a unique angle and glimpse of the amazing places to visit in Kashmir.

You hear so much about the natural splendor of Kashmir. Even more beautiful when seen through the eyes of Kashmiris. The commitment and attention to detail of the bright young Kashmiris can be seen in the countless vlogs, photos and social media posts by many YouTubers. However, among content producers in Kashmir, male YouTubers predominate. There aren’t many female YouTubers in Kashmir, and the few that do are not well known or unsupported by the community.

Faizul Manzoor, a 20-year-old from Barzulla, Srinagar, is believed to be the first Kashmiri female vlogger. She has put a lot of effort into establishing herself as a popular YouTuber in Kashmir.

Manzoor says her mother has been very supportive of her despite various prejudices previously expressed about her. She still retains hope and keeps moving in her quest to achieve her goals.

“I started my YouTube career in 2019 but that was after Articles 370 and 35a were repealed. My YouTube career didn’t start well because the internet was down for over a year and then its bandwidth was reduced to 2G which made it difficult to upload videos,” she says.

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“Kashmir is the most militarized region, and due to incidents, the internet is generally cut off or the speed is sometimes reduced, causing many problems in uploading videos and maintaining connection with the outside world.”

Another well-known Kashmiri vlogger, Ulfat Rafiq, nicknamed the “Hijabi vlogger”, is known for documenting her daily life. Hailing from the remote Baramullah district of Kashmir, she is pursuing a BTech in Civil Engineering.

“I started my YouTube experience in 2020. When I started there were very few female vloggers, but because society didn’t support them very much, they withdrew. That day I realized how well male vloggers are supported in society.

“If we look at the list of the most popular Kashmir YouTube channels, we see a pattern: almost all of them are made by men or mostly feature men. That really disappointed me. So that was the day I made the decision to start vlogging and my main purpose was to change people’s perceptions to show that women can be successful at content creation.

“So I came up with a plan that helped me a lot to establish my reputation in society and to advance in this profession with the help of others. I have chosen to wear a mask over my face and cover my head. I wear a mask because I want to, to uphold Islamic customs,” she says.

Rafiq says she makes almost Rs 10,000 a month from her three weekly vlogs. “When I started making videos, I realized there was a lot of competition, but I still believed that I would become a successful YouTuber and, in a way, be able to help people.”

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At first only her mother, sister and a few close acquaintances knew about her vlogs.

“When my father found out about my channel, he initially expressed reluctance, but after seeing me receive tributes and praise, he was supportive and advised me to conform to cultural norms.”

“In my opinion, our society will not support her if the girl does not follow her Islamic rules and customs. However, our society will still accept and support a man if he does something that is also against our beliefs,” she explained.

“In general it is also difficult to be a YouTuber (besides gender) as our Kashmir always faces internet shutdowns. If you consistently provide material, viewers will remember you, and if we stop, they won’t remember us. In the event that the valley’s internet goes down, my audience will drop by 90%.”

Another aspiring YouTuber, Munazab Tahir, a 10th grade student from Kashmir’s Srinagar district, says: “For a significant portion of Kashmiri youth, it might be difficult to shatter prejudices that encourage them to pursue traditional trades and to work in positions that offer stability and financial security.

“Of course these families are not paranoid. Development in the region has been volatile so far. Parents therefore want their children to make a significant contribution and create a safer and more promising future for themselves.”

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“The good news is that things are evolving. Youth who would otherwise have been trapped in traditional employment and schooling for years are now breaking out. While many have dabbled in singing, some have established themselves as authors and poets. On the other hand, some have become YouTube vloggers!”

Tahir added: “YouTube vlogging may not be a new idea or anything that requires an exclamation mark everywhere except in Kashmir. Vlogging is attracting attention in a traditional community like Kashmir, especially among women.”

“It wasn’t easy for me though. My parents first disapproved of my passion, but then supported it after learning more about it. In the still predominantly male Kashmiri society, I still have difficulties. Many Kashmiri men prefer to see women confined to the home and performing household chores, and I still receive a lot of criticism and even abuse on social media from men who describe themselves as preachers.”

That’s because “society believes that a girl has no right to be in the spotlight. However, if your parents support you, no one will lift a finger against you, and then you will pay little heed to society.”

In conclusion: “Although we say that gender discrimination is no longer widespread today, it still exists. Women are still inferior and men are considered superior.”

Cover photo – Faizul Manzoor

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