Noorjehan Safia Niaz

Ashoka Fellow
Mumbai, India
Fellow Since 2014


This profile was prepared when Noorjehan Safia Niaz was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
Noorjehan is building a network of empowered Muslim women across several States in India. She is enhancing their leadership capacity and providing them a platform from which they can voice and solve their own problems, including human rights violations and lack of access to education and government benefits.

Despite efforts to educate and economically empower women, Noor recognizes that Muslim women in India continue to be disenfranchised from a systemic source that impacts them directly and significantly – personal law. Marriage, divorce, inheritance and custody issues continue to be dictated by patriarchal systems in which they have no voice. Noor has built a participatory movement from the grassroots that can question existing practices and advocate for an equitable, if eventual, universal code. Seeing the process of getting there as equally important to, if not more than, the goal, she is creating a space for women to break silence and articulate alternate solutions. The issue of codification also provides a framework for debate that engages Muslim women, men, academics, lawyers and religious leaders for the first time. Alongside advocating for the long-term goal of codification, which could spare women the ordeals of oral/unilateral divorce, polygamy, lack of maintenance, and child marriage, and clarify practices for adoption, child custody, and inheritance, Noor is leveraging the network to test alternate solutions and raise awareness around issues.

By using codification of personal law as a framework, Noor is taking women through a transformative journey that prepares them for the future. Her highly decentralized network is becoming a strong movement of Muslim women who are becoming aware of their rights and acquiring leadership skills to advocate for their issues.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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