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Hameeda Khatoon–Co-Director

Hameeda was born to a poor Muslim family of seven brothers and sisters in Faizabad, UP. Incidentally, her house was close to the famous Babri Masjid, the contested birth place of Lord Rama in Ayodhya. Since a very young age Hameeda was financially independent, supporting both her education and her household expenses by selling garlands made from flowers. Hameeda’s father suffered from throat cancer, which prevented him from bringing home a steady income. Despite these emotional and financial upheavals, Hameeda succeeded in completing high school and got a job as a sales girl with Hindustan Lever Company. Her job entailed going from door to door to sell products. Owing to the nature of her job, Hameeda faced undue disapproval from her community.Hameeda completed her graduate studies and continued her professional and financial pursuits. Hameeda joined Sanatkada and the rest is history. From being one of seven siblings in a poor Muslim family of Faizabad, Hameeda is today an educated and independent woman, who is also the primary breadwinner of her family. It is Hameeda’s efforts which have led to the creation of SanatkadaSamajikPehel, a unique women’s collective targeting young women from minority communities in the economically deprived neighborhoods of old Lucknow with a goal to empower them through capacity building, skills and leadership development.


MeenaSoni– Domestic Violence and Jail Unit Coordinator

Meena brings with her many years of experience working withgrass-root NGOs. She has worked as a reporter with KhabharLahariya newspaper, and as a field staff with Vanangana andAali in Lucknow in past. She is an acid attack survivor whose key areas of interest are working on the issue of violence against women and providing counseling andlegal support to incarcerated women. Meena is a strong leader who leads her intervention team with passion and experience.

Nasreen Riyaz – Perspective building training coordinator

Nasreen coordinates the leadership-training program and information centre. She was married immediately after completing her schooling, and had four children. However she never gave up her dream of a higher education. She joined Sanatkada part-time in 2006 and with the knowledge and confidence she gained through leadership trainings and work experience here, she joined full time in 2009. While working full-time, raising her children and despite struggles in her domestic sphere, Nasreen was able to challenge the pervasive norms in her community and complete her graduation. Her experience at Sanatkada has given her the confidence and exposure she needed to work and lead her life in a fulfilling way. She is now a role model for women in her family and community.


Aisha – Training and film unit coordinator

Aisha, one of the most prominent members of Sanatkada, spoke about the influence of education on her life. “In my home, education was given no importance. My father was absolutely against me going to school, but with a great deal of difficulty and my grandfather’s help, I managed to get admission into school. I always came first in class and loved to learn, but after grade 8 when it was a question of continuing to high school, my father persisted in rejecting my education.
It was only because I was stubborn that I managed to study further. I had to fight for anything I wanted to do and achieve. Only after I graduated was my father proud of me- I am the only person to have graduated from their studies in my entire village community.
I made everything happen by myself: I studied computer skills, sewing, and practiced all the time. I joined Sanatkada in 2011 to continue learning about computers and technology, and my life has completely transformed. I changed my life from a locked up world, to one that is my own.” Despite the closed off world Aisha grew up in, the education she sought out for herself has allowed her insight and train of thought to branch out far past the ideals of her family. What I found most remarkable was how blatantly aware she was of the oppression many women in Lucknow face, despite growing up with no exposure to progressive thinking.
I asked her about her perspective on gender inequality in India, she told me: “I have come to realize that there’s a big difference between the way that boys think and the way that girls do. Women have advanced, and so has their thinking. Now, we have to work with men and their views have to change as well. If they don’t change, how will women adapt in this oppressive culture? Sanatkada is its own world, but ultimately we are in Lucknow. We are making some changes in our own families with our brothers, but that’s not enough- we have to make broader change in the reality of the world we live in.”