Born: January 16, 1951
Ms. Nighat Shafi exemplifies a mother figure – composed and warm, yet stern. She spent most of her life looking after her children and shielding them from the militancy that hit her home state of Kashmir. But when she moved back to Srinagar from Delhi, in 1995, and saw families and children torn by militancy, Ms. Shafi’s life took a new turn. She realized that the scars of the ugly incidents of killings by militants and the army are very deep.
At a time when hardly any woman would have liked to step out for fear of life, much less come out for doing social work, Ms. Shafi stepped out of a comfortable home and started out with visiting inmates at Srinagar’s lone mental institution and trying to improve conditions there. That is when she saw that apart from the physical toll, the conflict had ripped emotional lives in the valley. Since then there is nothing she has not done to help women and children in Kashmir to recover from the trauma of violence, and enjoy laughter, arts and education and live fulfilling lives.
Ms. Shafi, with an objective of providing a helping hand to women and children affected by the violence in the strife-torn valley instituted HELP (Human Effort for Love and Peace) Foundation in 1997. The prime focus has been on providing education and mental health counseling to women and children.
Ms. Shafi runs an orphanage Shehjaar which is a home for 30 boys in Inderhama, Hazratbal, in Srinagar. Under Ms. Shafi’s guidance, HELP focused on working in Kupwara, which was the worst militancy affected district in the valley. She set up the Shah Anwar Memorial Secondary School in Khumeriyal village in 2000 and the HELP Foundation Model School Mawar, in Handwara in 2006. She also conducts a range of initiatives to teach women skills and help them generate livelihoods. The vocational training centre is carrying out most vital activity seeing the need to make the women self reliant, who are victims of violence because they have lost the wage earners of their families. Ms. Shafi facilitates the women with embroidery and tailoring classes, in Srinagar and Kupwara and a food processing centre in Srinagar. Products are sold at their store in the city.