Alifya Loharchalwala and the Humans of Bombay project

Ertegun Alumna, Alifya Loharchalwala (2017), appears in the Humans of Bombay project where she talks about growing up in India and her aspirations to promote equality for women in India.

Alifya writes, I grew up in a chawl community on Mohammad Ali Road. The girls who I grew up with would get married by the time they were 15, and by college they would even have their first child. I was one of the few who went on to do something ‘abnormal’ by continuing school. While neighbours used to say things like ‘what’s the point of studying so much! Why don’t you learn cooking instead?’ or ‘if you keep working, when will you get married and have children?’, my mother was firm about getting me educated -- she wanted me to make something of myself. She herself wasn’t working and she didn’t want that for me. Even my brothers would support me when this came up.
Still, it wasn’t easy -- when my mother fell ill, it was automatically assumed that I would stay at home to look after her, while my brothers would go out to work. I’m not complaining -- I would do anything for my mother, but why is it always the woman’s role? I didn’t understand it. I got a flexible job as a teacher so that I could take care of my mom as well. In college, I realised that there were women out there with real opportunities- I realised that life could be different from my reality - so I started preparing for my MBA without letting anyone know. During this time, my mother passed away, but somehow her death inspired me to push even harder to change things...for myself and others. I managed to get a scholarship for my MBA -- one year in, I founded a start-up which focused on women's literacy.
The more I worked with these girls, the more I realised that I could have been them -- so many of them had no option to study, others had to take permission from a male figure to go to a doctor and some had to give up their education to take care of their siblings.
In 2017, I got a full scholarship and stipend from the University of Oxford. I got a degree in Women Studies and even though I got job opportunities abroad, I came home -- ready to make a change.
I’ve worked with daughters of sex workers and girls from low income backgrounds. We’ve tried to enable change through simple things like feeling comfortable wearing shorts while playing football, or finding a middle ground between work at home and school. I’m currently working on encouraging companies to invest in women. I know change won’t happen overnight, but we must try and try hard -- equality IS progress for the country, something we must never forget.


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