MGYW’s Annual Banquet: It’s all about Women Empowerment
By Farhana Mohamed, MBA, PhD
Pictures by Syed Ashraf Ali & Anwar Khawaja

The Merit Grants for Young Women (MGYW) Project has come a long way since 2000 when it was conceived and later became an integral part of Pakistani American Forum. The vision of MGYW is to empower impoverished but accomplished young Pakistani women through education. The MGYW’s decade-long achievements include providing sustained monetary support to educate thousands of impoverished girls from Karachi to Peshawar, and to maximize local leverage by partnering with reputable NGOs which are providing quality education to girls living in abject poverty in the urban and remote rural areas of Pakistan.

MGYW’s annual fundraising banquet was recently held at Knott’s Berry Farm Resort Hotel in Southern California. The program was emceed by Raeesa Tarr and Yumnah Syed who are two emerging young leaders with their involvement with Zanbeel Art and 8Fourteen organizations, respectively.

The program commenced with introductions by Iram Iqbal of MGYW Board, Emcees, and Qur’anic recitation by young Sadia and Sami Khan. Dr. Farhana Mohamed’s presentation highlighted MGYW’s mission and recent accomplishments followed by a video vividly describing MGYW’s development projects, interviews with MGYW scholars and their families, and one of the MGYW partners.

Selina Chi, Dean of Resource Management, East Los Angeles College Foundation, expressed her viewpoint through a video statement where she underlined the importance of global education for women, especially the positive changes it can bring to the entire family. She also urged generous donations as just $1,000 could make a tremendous difference in a young (Pakistani) girl’s life by educating her for ten years.

The crux of the intellectual speeches delivered by Consul General Riffat Masood and Dr. Meher Tabatabai was to emphasize the importance of education, especially for young women of Pakistan. Both strongly supported the work being done by MGYW and requested the guests to support the organization. CG Masood presented a well-researched speech and quoted heavily from “Education Emergency Pakistan Report – 2011” commissioned by Pakistan Education Task Force in March 2011. While highlighting the pathetic education status in Pakistan, especially for girls, she also gave statistics on how well the girls are faring in higher education - even with limited opportunities.

Dr. Tabatabai statistically supported her argument that contrary to Islam’s emphasis on equal education for all, women in Muslim countries have one of the lowest literacy rates with few exceptions such as Turkey. She also articulated the vast impact of educating under-privileged girls, especially on their immediate families.

The prominent features of the event included auction of unique items and outfits (generously donated by local businesses, individuals, and the MGYW Board) conducted by Ashraf Ali, Tasneem Altaf, and Zille Zaman. This was followed with a Fashion Show choreographed by Pomi Niazi of Pomi’s Collection and Atia Niazi’s rendition of patriotic melody “Pakistan ki Beti.” The musical entertainment segment was aptly emceed by Ashraf Ali and included performances by young prodigy Amit Pujari, and famed singers Azra Malik, and Arshad Ali.

The MGYW Board Members who put tremendous effort for months included Tasneem Afzal, Sufia Altaf, Iram Iqbal, Farhana Mohamed, and Zille Zaman. The Board is also profoundly grateful to all the volunteers - Riaz Khan, Ashraf Ali, Asad Arastu, Javeria Syed, Suaab Niazi, and others - and generous donors who made this event a stand out success.

The Pakistan Link readers are requested to visit MGYW on the web ( and on the Facebook to know more about this organization which is being run on a very unique and cost-effective business model.




Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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