Indien: Dilafrose Qazi

Dilafrose Qazi battles lack of security and harsh weather conditions to help the women and children of Jammu and Kashmir lead normal lives despite the 16-year-long separatist struggle.

— Dilafrose Qazi

Dilafrose Qazi (born 1962) battles lack of security and harsh weather conditions in the violence-scarred state of Jammu and Kashmir to help the women and children, many of whom have been deprived of a proper education by the 16-year armed separatist struggle. Starting small with classes in cutting and tailoring for girls and housewives, Dilafrose now runs an engineering college and several primary schools and vocational training centers.

Dilafrose Qazi was born in Baramulla in the Kashmir Valley. It was a poorly literate family-no one had, in fact, been to school. Dilafrose's father made leather garments, and her mother wove pashmina shawls. With her mother determined to educate her two sons and two daughters, Dilafrose studied at a free government school, and then finished her masters in education as well as a law degree from Kashmir University. Unable, however, to land a government job, she started a small venture in rented premises in 1988-classes for girls and housewives in cutting, stitching, cooking, and shorthand. That was also the year she was married. Her venture picked up, but the beginning of the armed separatist struggle in the Kashmir Valley a year later put paid to its further growth. Everything-violence, state security, militants-worked against women and girls attending schools and colleges. Since Dilafrose had no other source of income, she had to shell out ransom to keep her classes going, and her husband was kidnapped for a while. In 1994, Dilafrose procured land in the backward Baramulla district, inhabited mainly by the Shia community, to help them get an education. That small institution is now a hefty engineering college. Dilafrose also started a free primary school in 1996 in the village Divar Parihaspora in Baramulla district. In 1998, she opened another school in the village Sumbal in Dangarpora. In 2001, Dilafrose started a free primary school at Kunan Poshpora in the Kupwara district, a militant haven and military overkill zone. She organized self-help groups for the traumatized women, giving each a highbred cow and helping them run a dairy farm.

SSM College of Engineering-Baramulla, Kashmir