How poor Muslim girls changing their lives through education

Afreen in Burka and Sana

By Muslim Mirror Special Correspondent,

Afreen dons a burkha. Takes pride in her identity as a Muslim. Speaks good English. Works as an Optometrist in a private hospital and teaches Optometry students in Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh.

Afreen’s story is an inspiration for many. Her father, who does odd jobs as a labourer, migrated to Aligarh from Araria in Bihar along with the entire family in search of better living some 10 years back.

The family used to live in an empty plot in Sir Syed Nagar neighborhood close to Aligarh Muslim University.

Afreen was always eager to study. Some neighbors informed about her talent to Delhi-based NGO India Wisdom Foundation (IWF).

IWF helped her to pass Class 10, 12, diploma in Optometry and finally B.Sc in Optometry. The sustained financial and moral support helped her become an independent earning member of the family of labourers.

“When I teach my students at the hospital, I feel I can do even better. I have travelled a long way but I have to do more,” says Afreen while adressing a gathering of students and teachers from AMU.

Afreen was speaking at the annual scholarship distribution of IWF on Sunday. She was invited to tell her story to the students who are fighting all odds to achieve good education.

Afreen says, “I had many problems in life. We had no space to live. Going to school was a privilege. But I believe if you want to do something good then people do join you.”

Afreen is not alone. She is joined by another girl Sana Mahfooz who is studying Bachelor of Architecture from Jamia Milia Islamia. She got 3000 rank in the all India combined engineering exam this year.

Sana says, “I did not do any coaching and qualified the entrance exam in my first attempt.”

“I tried to cut my sleep, focus on my studies and almost gave up social life. I thank IWF mainly for the moral support apart of the financial help.”


Sana belongs to Balia and her family migrated to Aligarh in search of better job. Her father has a makeshift grocery shop in Aligarh. Now her brother is also getting support from IWF. Sana continues to get IWF scholarship to complete her B. Architecture course.

The man behind these success stories is Dr. Kashif Razi who identified these girls and connected them to IWF.

Razi of IWF said, “We provide scholarship and also monitor their studies. We renew the scholarship only when they perform consistently.”

IWF has been giving scholarship to poor students since 2011 under the banner of The Aligarh Project.

Dr. Shahid Jameel of IWF said there are many scholarships at the college level. But there are many poor students in private schools who are unable to reach upto college level.

“We need to identify such students at the very early stage and nurture them,” said Jameel.

IWF gave scholarship to 29 students this year.


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