Hijab is my ornament: Mumbai corporator Afreen

TCN Special Series on Women of Inspiration

By Rehan Ansari, TwoCircles.net,

Support TwoCircles

Mumbai: Imagine a scene where a burqa-clad woman, among more than two hundred corporators of Shiv Sena, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party, is shouting for the problems of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation. Mother of two teenagers, Afreen Fayyaz Ahmed is the Congress corporator of Mumbai Municipal Corporation for last 3 years.

Born to Parsi parents, educated in one of the best schools in south Mumbai to marrying Fayyaz Ahmed and becoming a corporator, story of Afreen is very interesting.

Congress corporator of Mumbai Afreen Faiyaz Ahmed in her office

Afreen converted to Islam at the age of 18 years and married to Fayyaz Ahmed, former Member of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and was just a housewife till Madanpura Municipal seat reserved for women.

Conditions in the politics compelled her to get out of her home and fight the corporation election. Although, it would be normal for Muslims but very strange for others not to see their own elected corporator ever and vote for her. Imtiyaz Ahmed, 30, a local of her area said, “No one has ever seen Afreen Fayyaz Ahmed but everybody knows her and get their work done.”

Afreen, while talking to TwoCircles.net said, “Hijab is my ornament and it never stops me from serving the people of my area.” She also added that she derives all the courage from Allah and her husband Fayyaz Ahmed is the biggest support for her.

Sharing her experience of working along with hundreds of men in the corporation, she said, “Initially it was bit odd but now I am used to it because of their co-operative nature. They all respect and care for me. Sometimes they go out of the way to co-operate me.”

In Maharashtra and specially in Municipal Corporation Marathi is the only way to communicate the grievance. “Knowing Marathi is compulsory if one likes to get her work done in Maharashtra and Alhamdulillah, I speak good Marathi besides English, Gujarati and Hindi” said Afreen.

Afreen Faiyaz Ahmed at a guidance center

Clean water supply, road and drainage are on top of her agenda because of which she has been treated badly by the voters while campaigning. She remembers an incident while campaigning, “I was nearly thrown out of the door and treated very badly because water supply was nearly collapsed in the area and people has to wake up at around 4 a.m. to store the water.”

After the incident Afreen was literally crying but gathered the courage and continued her election campaign with the help of her husband and brother-in-law and finally won the election.

She said that her biggest achievement would be to get her proposal passed by the corporation — a woman doctor and labor must be appointed for a female dead body during the post mortem.

She said, “Once in an accident a 20-year-old girl died and I had to go to the Hospital for her dead body. I found a man was covering the body of that girl and naturally was touching the body of that poor girl.” She was shocked to see that and decided to move a proposal in this regard and also wrote a letter to the Prime Minister.

On the backwardness of Muslims, she believes that awareness about education and employment to Muslims will truly empower them.

Afreen, with the help of her husband, organizes guidance camps for Ration Cards, OBC, Certificate, PAN Cards, Electoral role, Domicile certificates. She said, “We Muslims don’t know how to get all these important documents which are the prerequisites to get any kind of government facilities such as scholarships schemes, employments.”

Afreen Faiyaz Ahmed guiding women at a guidance center

She has also planned a permanent guidance center in the area and a month long campaign during the month of May, the summer vacation. She said that she and her volunteers will go door to door for the awareness campaign and will facilitate them to get these important documents.

Afreen is also aware of the difficulties women face in the male dominated politics. She accepted that all the social and technical job is done by her whereas her husband takes care of the other aspects and more importantly the politics.

She parried the question about 50% reservation for Muslims in the corporations but her husband Fayyaz Ahmed vehemently opposed the bill put forward by his own party.