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Empowering My Community

"My beginnings kept me going because I was born and raised in a ghetto."

-Sumaiya Muslim

Author: Sarah Mohammed

August 2021

I come from a very marginalized community in India, but fortunately, my family was interested in education, so they made sure that I pursue my education. When I grew up, I studied architecture in another city away from my hometown. When I came back to my hometown, I realized that all the women around me are nearly illiterate because they graduated from school in standard eight or standard seven. They were never allowed to study beyond that. And so it came to my mind--I asked them that if they're not allowed to go outside of the house, they can simply come to mine to study, I can help them appear for their exams.

It was not easy. I had to persuade the families individually. They were not ready to trust, but I went to individual homes and gained their trust. I started this project way back in 2018. I initiated it again in 2021, and so far, it's going well. The response this time is overwhelming. It was two years, enough time for people to think about how important education is. Now they are all coming to my home school.

I focus on the education of the marginalized communities, precisely Muslims; my focus is more on the Muslim women because various organizations are working in India, but very few organizations are working for Muslims. Being an individual, I can only do that much, so I focus more on Muslim individuals.

My beginnings kept me going because I was born and raised in a ghetto. My family was fortunate enough to move to a better locality, but my heart always stayed where it is. Right now, I'm sitting in my ghetto in some family’s home because they needed my advice for something, so I made sure to leave everything else and come to them because, you know, these people do not have go-to people.

It just did not feel right that I was working, living the best of my life, while my people back home who put their trust in me were not living the best they should. Precisely, there are people I'm remotely related to. They're not my family; they’re people I know; I have grown up around them. So I simply just don't want to abandon them that way. This is something that kept me going, just their faces, just their trust in me.

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