A future for Indian women

Begunahi’s annual fundraiser looks to gain more funds for future daughters

NDSU faculty lecturer Riaz Aziz founded the Begunahi Foundation in 2013 with his wife. This organization provides women of India the tools to continue their education and get closer to ending poverty in the process.

“Women have a considerable amount of disadvantage relative to their male counterparts,” Aziz said, especially in education and economics. This is why they chose to focus on women whose families live on $1,000 a year and who have been able to make it past the struggles and graduate high school.

They go through an interview process to get a sense of whether they have a dream to further their education and have the support of their family. And simply asking, “Do you have a dream to want to go to college?” is equivalent to, “How would you like to go to Mars tomorrow?”

Since they began, they have supported 130 women, and each year they have five to eight women graduate from college. Each of which have a scholarship covering 100% of their educational needs and also meals, lodging, hygiene needs, transportation, medical needs, clothing and more. If they only give a scholarship, all other obstacles remain, leading to failing out of college, which is why they support all the needs of that woman.

On April 27, Begunahi hosted their annual fundraising event, which is used to fund the women’s needs to pursue their college career. In India, it only takes “$1,200 per year for me to send a woman to college, feed her, clothe her, house her, buy her a cell phone, give her all the books and give her all of the education that she needs,” Aziz said. The price is this low because “India is still an affordable country.”

Every $1200 that we raise means there’s another woman that’s going to have a life changed.”


100% of the money raised goes toward the women’s needs. The website, events and anything extra to spread the word is covered by the founders of the organization. To give back to the Fargo-Moorhead community, Begunahi gave 10% of every ticket sold to the YWCA Cass Clay, which supports empowering women.

Through this event, a woman can continue her education and prevent her from only having a future as a housewife, which “there’s nothing wrong with it, but a housewife without an education and a husband leaves or dies — she’s left with children and no education,” Aziz said. During the program, a rule is to not become engaged or married to another person, so they can focus on their future college career without any distractions.

At the fundraiser, they had a silent auction, meal, performances of authentic Indian dances, traditional Indian art of henna, Indian costumes and much more.

Every year they take in around $20,000 – 25,000 a year to support their daughters. “A woman who is not educated, the probability that she will educate her children is between 22-25%.” If you give her education, the probability jumps to 92%, therefore stopping the cycle of poverty.

In India it is inappropriate to call the women by their names, so the foundation calls them their “daughters.” They began supporting one of their daughters a couple years ago, who was able to get 97% in the first year in her math and physics degree studies. Now, she has been invited to continue her education at Harvard in the United States.

Another two women in the program are currently dealing with rain falling through their ceilings all while pursuing a master’s degree.

Along with providing scholarships and needs, they produce vocational training “that gives the women the chance to sew and embroider,” Aziz said. They also produce sanitary menstrual products and train the women how to properly use the supplies instead of missing school for a week. A program they include is self-defense to create a sense of confidence.

The foundation prefers monetary donations as opposed to items because it is cheaper to buy items in India than in America. For more information visit

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