Special honour for Mumtaz Shaikh, our team member

We’ve known for a long time that Mumtaz is doing incredible work to promote women’s rights. In 2004, she was a recipient of the Fellowship under the Quest Fellowship Programme that we run in collaboration with our partner Leaders’ Quest. During this she focused on reducing violence against women in her neighbourhood. She is now a member of staff at CORO where she is heading the Women’s Empowerment Programme.

As part of her work for CORO’s Mahila Mandal Federation (MMF), Mumtaz has set up 76 self-help groups for women in low-income communities. Members of these groups share their experiences of violence, provide one another with support, find ways to prevent violence and deal with it when it does occur.

Following 15 instances of rape committed against girls in Mumbai, Mumtaz helped make the system work for survivors. The police didn’t investigate these cases properly and people were scared of further attacks. Mumtaz and one of our Advanced Fellows, Sujata Lawande, organised a march on the office of the Deputy Police Commissioner to demand rapid investigations. They followed all 15 cases to the courts, seven of which resulted in convictions. The police have also set up vigilance committees – of which Mumtaz and Sujata are members – to make communities safer for women and girls.

Mumtaz’s award has been granted by the Maharashtra Foundation and Nari Samata Manch, two organisations committed to empowering women in Maharashtra. In 1997, Nari Samata Manch published a book celebrating 80 women working on social development issues. Every year, it uses proceeds from book sales to recognise female social activists focusing on women’s rights. Its team visited CORO earlier this year and was so impressed by Mumtaz’s work that it decided to make her the 2014 winner.The award ceremony took place last month in Pune. Nari Samata Manch didn’t just ask Mumtaz to attend – her husband Rahul, children Muskan and Kabir, and 12 colleagues from MMF were also invited! So everyone involved in her success made the journey to Pune and shared in her incredible moment. They also got to meet well-known Marathi playwright, Atul Pethe, who presented the award. Back in the office the next day, CORO Director Mahendra organised a ceremony for Mumtaz where he presented her with a bouquet of flowers.

Mumtaz has dedicated her award to her colleagues because she says that without them she wouldn’t be able to do what she does. She’s really pleased to be honoured in this way and feels a greater sense of responsibility now – for herself and for her work. She told us she’ll carry this responsibility with her for the rest of her life.

We asked Rahul how he felt about the award. That’s a big question, he replied. He’s very happy because Mumtaz deserves this recognition – and he knows it will increase her motivation. Her work can be difficult, but it’s making an incredible difference to the lives of so many women in their community.

We at Leaders’ Quest are immensely proud of Mumtaz’s journey, which started with her Quest Fellowship ten years ago. Her story is just one example of the amazing work done by our fellows during their fellowships and beyond. Mumtaz told us her team wants to expand its reach to women in communities right across Maharashtra. This award recognises the value of their work, so it’s a significant step towards making that happen.