Khadija is only one of many Muslim women in south India who are asserting their rights, and winning. In neighbouring Tamil Nadu, the redoubtable Daud Sharifa Khanam has built the STEPS women's development organisation into a formidable body, with 30,000 members. This month's meeting celebrated a small victory—that of one of its members, Saubaitha Begum, who successfully organised a Friday prayer meet for 300 women in Thracepuram a few weeks ago, and even persuaded some of the men in the town to support the move. STEPS has also been determinedly tackling problems such as dowry harassment and spousal abuse, which the male-dominated jamaats often overlook. In the last decade alone, they have successfully disposed of 10,000 petitions. Well versed in both theology and law, STEPS members have also taken to the streets when the petitions haven't been enough, forcing the removal of corrupt policemen and the arrest of violent wife-beaters.
Daud Sharifa Khanam in the STEPS office