Shaping their dreams

Not making their ordinary educational backgrounds a barrier in their way, some students of the valley went to satiate their thirst of doing more in their fields of choice by availing Ford Foundation International Fellowship. Shazia Khan profiles some Ford Foundation fellows.

A number of Kashmiri stundents have qualified for Ford Foundation Scholarship.
A number of Kashmiri stundents have qualified for Ford Foundation Scholarship.

Ford foundation is an American philanthropic organization, established in 1936 with gifts and donations from the Ford family. Headquartered in New York City it has 12 regional offices around the world and extends fellowships to outstanding scholars of merit in more than 50 countries. The trust areas supported are international affairs, population control, the alleviation of food shortages, strengthening of democratic values, communications and educational media, humanities and arts, community development and the environment.

The foundation receives 40,000 applications each year, of which around 2000 are selected for grants after an intensive multi-tier scrutiny.

Tahira Firdous

Tahira Firdous
Tahira Firdous

University: Hawaiian Pacific University, USA

Course: MA Communications

Hailing from Guloora in Kupwara district Tahira Firdous was born and brought up in a middle class family. She did   her bachelors in Mass Communication & Video Production from Degree College Baramulla. After completing her graduation she applied for Ford Foundation International Fellowship programme and was selected for the Master’s programme.

“I was enrolled in MA Sociology at Kashmir University, when I got Ford Foundation Fellowship. Initially, when I applied for this Fellowship, I thought I was not eligible. I did not have any relevant job experience except my volunteer work with a local NGO. But once I was short listed in first stage, I made sure I reach to final stage”, says Tahira.

However, after applying for IFP, she cleared first two stages of the IFP process and was invited for regional interview.  “I thought it would be about my region. So I read bunch of book on Kashmir history and politics but for my surprise it turned to be personal interview”, says Tahira.

After qualifying regional interview she made her place in national interview.

“Regional interview boost my confidence. But the minute I entered in waiting room, my confidence was shattered. I saw many other candidates there, having seven years experience.   I felt I am not going to make it, after looking at my volunteer work experience. However, when I was called for interview, I gathered my courage and made it possible for myself.”

Ask her how she felt about the IFP Scholarship, she replies “After a long struggle, it was in a way an achievement for me.”

“IFP makes it easier to reach to your goal, provides you right kind of education at any university in any part of the world.”

At present, Tahira is at the Hawaii Pacific University where she is doing Masters in Communication. Her main area of concern is Human rights violations. She plans to be a professional journalist, either as a news-anchor or reporter.

She has made couple of short documentaries, and currently working on an hour long documentary on Al Jazeera English. “I participated in 2008 UNESCO Human Rights forum and have presented my research paper on “Internal Forced Migration in Kashmir” at 2008 East West Center Annual Graduate student conference. I am graduating in December, and will like to continue my work as a documentary maker, besides looking for a job in reporting. I am a simple person with simple goals, but I am a very good planer for sure” says Tahira.

Sumeera Bashir

Sumeera Bashir
Sumeera Bashir

University: Cardiff University,UK

Course: MA International Journalism

Born and brought up in Srinagar, Sumeera Bashir did her graduation from the Government Women’s College MA Road Srinagar. Later she completed her Masters in Mass Communication & Journalism from the University of Kashmir.

“After completing masters in Journalism, I started working with   a local daily ‘The Daily Mirror of Kashmir’ for couple of years, and simultaneously was a special correspondent for ‘Valley Post“, says Sumeera.  “ I was also involved in many NGO’s and has volunteered for various issues like educating tribal children about the importance of trees, informing tribal women about the importance of education, and discouraging early marriage among the Gujjar tribe”.

She says, “I was much interested in teaching even I set up a tuition centre at my home, where I used to teach special children. We have very less avenues in valley where one can think on broader sense. Earlier I thought to become a teacher and had set a goal to teach students at the college level and do research on the various social problems faced by people here.”

However, after getting selected for IFP she completed her Masters in International Journalism from the School of Journalism, Media & Cultural Studies at Cardiff University, with a specialization on international reporting on foreign affairs.

“Ford provided me platform where I think about my career in broader way. Spending two years in Cardiff University helped me to get exposed to broader avenues of world “, says Sumeera.

Raheela Narchoor

Raheela Narchoor
Raheela Narchoor

University:  Indiana University, USA

Course: Masters in Human Rights

Hailing from district Islamabad, Raheela Narchoor has done BSc from Government Degree College for Women, Islamabad and LLB from University of Kashmir.

Raheela has worked with many NGO’s including the District Rehabilitation Centre as a Helper and Darasgah-i- Mohammadi as a Teacher. She was the part of awareness campaign regarding the importance of education in back ward areas of Islamabad.

Raheela has also worked with the Jammu & Kashmir Yateem Trust Islamabad as a Counsellor for over a year.

She has done a lot of volunteer work like helping rehabilitate disabled persons at the district rehabilitation centre.

She was also associated with Islamabad Chemists and distributors association. They organized camps to mitigate suffering of people in far flung areas by providing free medical facilities.

After applying in IFP she remained focused on unemployment & backwardness (lack of education, illiteracy, exploitation of labour, etc) in Valley.

After selected for Ford Foundation Raheela did her Masters in Human Rights from the Bloomington School of Law at Indiana University, USA. She has set her goal to help build partnership and increase mutual understanding, knowledge and innovation in J&K as well as to create enduring people to people links and building capacity. She also wants to help set up a law university in her State.

Raheela says, “Getting selected in Ford Foundation fellowship is an achievement, a turning point in ones life. It helps you do something concrete in your life.”

Akmal Hanan

Akmal Hanan
Akmal Hanan

University: Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY

Course: MFA Film Production

Akmal was born in Khanyar in Srinagar. He did his B.Sc from Amar Singh College Srinagar, and later pursued his Masters in Mass Communication from the University of Kashmir.

He worked with EMMRC at the University of Kashmir for seven years and has also taught television direction as guest faculty at MERC and Baramulla Degree College. He has worked at the Audiovisual Research Centre at the University of Roorkee as a Freelance Producer.

Akmal has also worked voluntarily on many issues like initiated an anti-drug campaign, convincing friends and family to join the society which helps rehabilitate addicts. He also initiated a group to work for the welfare of alumni of Mass communication in terms of employment etc.

Ask him about IFP fellowship, he says, it provides you opportunity, covers your all expenses, prepares the fellow for further studies by arranging orientations and training programs.

After selected in IFP Akmal has gone to do his Masters programme in Fine Arts at the Rochester Institute of Technology, School of Film & Animation in the US

Regarding work Akmal says, “working in or outside Kashmir wouldn’t really matter for me.  The real issue is whether I enjoy my work or not. There are no strings attached with my work nor I have specific preference.

“I am a film maker and doing MFA in film production, I definitely have plan to make films in Kashmir to instigate and encourage social debates on issues concerning the common people there which I had been doing before coming to US”, says Akmal.

Ghulam Hussain Mir

Ghulam Hussain Mir
Ghulam Hussain Mir

University: University of Wales, UK

Course: MSc Natural Resource Development

Hussain was born in Magam, district Budgam. He did his B.V.Sc. from the Faculty of Veterinary Science & Animal Husbandry from the Birsa Agricultural University in Ranchi.

He was part of the Department of Animal Husbandry in Jammu and Kashmir for 16 years as a Veterinary Assistant Surgeon. He arranged a camp at Orung, treating 250 cases with various problems and distributed medicines. He also organized manpower for the cleaning up of water canals in local area of her village. After getting selected in IFP, he is perusing Masters in International Natural Resource Development from the School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Wales.

Miftahul Hasnat Syed

Miftahul Hasnat Syed
Miftahul Hasnat Syed

University: Cornell University, USA

Course: Masters at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Miftahul hails from Srinagar. He did his B.Sc from the University of Kashmir and his Masters from Forest Research Institute in Dehradun.

He has worked for the Council for Environment, Education, Development and Relief as a Coordinator Program for Agro-biodiversity Conservation. He has also worked with Tarun Bhagat Sangh at Alwar and ‘CAPART ‘in New Delhi. He was with Navdanya in Dehradun as a Research and Development Officer.

After selected in IFP, his concerns remain on lack of awareness about environmental degradation and lack of any sustainable conservation program. Presently he is doing Masters at Cornell University at the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. In the long run he would like to start more programs for conservation of environment and socio-economic development.

Mumtaz Ahmad Yatoo

Mumtaz Ahmad Yatoo
Mumtaz Ahmad Yatoo

University: University of Leicester, UK

Course: Ph.D Archaeology

Mumtaz hails from Sopore. He did his B. Sc from the Government Degree College in Sopore. He then went on to do his Masters in Archaeology from the Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University in Garhwal, Uttarakhand.

He did M.Phil from Kashmir University. Mumtaz has worked as an Assistant professor at the History Department of University of Kashmir and also as a Counsellor at the Indira Gandhi National Open University. He has been a social activist for the NGO Vision Society and volunteered for youth sports and services as well as the NSS. He has also been associated with the social newspaper “On the track”.

As an IFP Scholar, Mumtaz is pursuing a PhD in Archaeology at University of Leicester in the UK. His long term goal is to work as a professional archaeologist to preserve the past heritage and culture of the region.

Parvaiz Ahmed Parry

Parvaiz Ahmed Parry
Parvaiz Ahmed Parry

University: University of Michigan, USA

Course: MS Environmental Policy & Planning

Parvaiz was born in Budgam. He did his B.Sc in Forestry from the Birla Construction College in Srinagar Garhwal UP as well as his Masters in Forestry from Garhwal University. He also did a Certificate Course in Participatory Forest Management from IGNOU.

Parvaiz has worked in the Department of Forestry in Garhwal University as a Lecturer and he has also been a Research Assistant at the Garhwal University. He worked as a Project Manager at the Indian Institute of Forest Management and was a Junior Research Fellow at the GB Pant Institute.

Parvaiz has been an activist against polythene and has worked on issues like eco-education for rural school children.

His goal is to pioneer a peoples’ movement to take charge of Himalayan management. After his return he wants to work in the Development Sector with an NGO. He is currently at the University of Michigan at the School of Natural Resources and Environment, where he is doing his Masters in Environmental Policy and Planning.

Rubeena Shaheen

Rubeena Shaheen
Rubeena Shaheen

University: Johns Hopkins University, USA

Course: Masters in Public Health

Rubeena hails from Khudwani in Islamabad. She did her M.B.B. S. from the Government Medical College in Srinagar. She also went on to do an MD in Microbiology from the Sheri Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences in Srinagar.

Rubeena has worked in Srinagar with the Regional Institute of Health & Family Welfare as an Assistant Surgeon/Resource Person/Microbiologist for 3 years.  She has also been with the SKIMS as a Senior Resident as well as a Post Graduate.

Rubeena worked for a project called ‘Aao Gaon Chalein’ as a member of the Indian Medical Association to combat Anaemia among women. Her main concerns are female illiteracy and child marriage. She was a nodal officer for IDSP in her region, where she coordinated data collection on communicable and non communicable diseases.

After selecting in IFP, Rubeena is doing a Masters in Public Health from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins University, USA. In coming years her goal is to improve public health services in the J&K region.

Asiya Zahoor

Asiya Zahoor
Asiya Zahoor

University: Oxford University,UK

Course: MSc in Applied Linguistics & Language Acquisition

Asiya hails from Khanpora in Baramulla district. She did her B.A. from the Women’s College Baramulla and her Masters in English Literature from the University of Kashmir in Srinagar.

Asiya worked at the Indira Gandhi National Open University for two years as a Counsellor. She was also teaching at the Government Degree College, Baramulla.

Asiya was very much in social work. She was a member of the women’s counselling cell and has done social work by helping destitute. After selected for IFP, Asiya is doing her Masters in Oxford University at the Department of Educational Studies. She is studying Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition.

Name: Mohammad Hasnain

University: Columbia University, USA

Course: MIA SIPA

Hasnain was born in Leh. He did his B.A. (Hons.) in Sociology from Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh and a PG Diploma in Forest Management from IIFM in Bhopal. He worked with the Enterprising Ladakh Project for one year as Project Coordinator. He was also the Director (Programmes) of the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh. He then became a Consultant for Action Aid in Delhi as well as a Development Associate for Seva Mandir in Udaipur.

After completion of his Masters he plans to join a local NGO and work for the betterment of the environment and development. Being IFP scholar, he is currently doing his Masters in International Affairs at the School of International Public Affairs at Columbia University.

Stanzin Tsephel

Stanzin Tsephel
Stanzin Tsephel

University:  Oxford University, UK

Course: M. Sc Energy & Environment

Stanzin was born in Hundar Nubra in Leh. He did his B.Com (Hons.) from Hansraj College at Delhi University and also a P.G. Diploma in Rural Management from IRMA in Anand, Gujarat.

Stanzin worked with the Ladakh Ecological Development Group as a Program Coordinator. He was also a Coordinator for the Uttaranchal Organic Commodity Board (UOCB) as well as a Coordinator/Artist/Translator at the Super Arts TV and Radio Press.

Stanzin has volunteered for the International Society for Ecology and Culture, for various NGOs during school and college vacations and worked with the Ladakh Ecological Developmental Group (LEDG). He was the President of the All Ladakh Student Association, Delhi and has also contributed to Vision document of Ladakh. He was awarded the Mr. IRMA award for two consecutive years.

After selection for IFP Scholarship he is currently studying at the Oxford University, where he is doing his Masters in Energy and Environment at the Environmental Change Institute His long term goal is to advocate for development of mountainous regions at national and international levels.

Sami Ullah Band

Sami Ullah Band
Sami Ullah Band

University: Brandeis University, USA

Course: Masters in Public Policy

Sami was born in Srinagar. He did his B.Sc from S.P. College, Srinagar. He then went on to do Masters in Social Work from the Uiversity of Kashmir. Sami worked in Srinagar with an NGO “Save the Children” as a Field Coordinator for over a year. He has also worked with Medecins Sans Frontieres as an Associate Researcher and with Better World as a Counsellor.

Sami has helped form a group of people with various disabilities where they share their common concerns. He is also in the process of registering this as a self help group. He also helped form another group of disabled people that meets once a month to discuss similar concerns and address them.

His long term goal is to set up an NGO which is focused on development programs for youth to help youth of his region to focus their energy in the development of the nation.

Sami is currently doing his Masters in Public Policy from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, USA.


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