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If there is a will, there is a way - Faiza paves the path, follow her!

Faiza posing for a picture after the interview

Over the sound of the waves, the cool of the breeze and the rustle of coconut palms, Faiza, from Dhiffushi Island, shares moments from her life with me. With a glint in her eyes, serenity on her face and conviction in her voice, Faiza is one of the most active women in her community. At 44 years of age she is grandmother to one, mother to three, and a role model to many others, and has been a volunteer at the “Kaafu Dhiffushi Ekuveringe Roshan Club” (aka Dhiffushi Unity Club) for over 15 years.

She does not hold any official post at the Club, but rather chose to be an active member, as her commitment to her family is her priority. Faiza, with a shy but loving smile, says “I have no desire to do anything without my husband’s permission”. She also adds, “He has never stopped me from anything though”. She was married at 16, of her own choice, and she says she cannot have asked for a better partner. Despite this, Faiza is right at the forefront of most community initiatives.

“I have always been involved – but it was not easy when my children were little. On days it was difficult and tiring - I relied on my friends and neighbors.” This she says with some gravity in her voice. If there is any sorrow she carries with her, it is the absence of her mother by her side – who passed away when Faiza was only 3 years old. She believes she could have done more with a mother’s support. Faiza’s husband, a fisherman by profession, spends most of his days on the high seas, so the burden of child rearing was hers. She has no regrets, no hard feelings; if anything, she is thankful for his unwavering moral and financial support. She says it is a partnership.

Faiza’s one regret is not attaining an education. Faiza received some education, at Maktabul Ameen, gaining a couple of years of elementary education in her teen years. “My father tried his best. We were poor and there simply were no opportunities back then. I made up though - by ensuring my children got the education that I craved”. Her children completed their secondary schooling away from home, in Male’ City, as only up to grade seven was offered then. Dhiffushi has progressed and currently offers up to Grade 10. This she counts as a blessing for the community and hopes it will reduce the outward migration to the city that had been taking place as people choose to leave so their children can be educated.

She very proudly says that her children have grown up beautifully, all are educated, and now serving the country. “My eldest is a Police Corporal” this she says with unmatched pride. “The youngest is in tourism, and my daughter is doing an online course, she is a teacher”. Faiza notes the importance of the internet and other facilities to ensure her children are empowered. Her daughter and two sons are clearly the joy of her life. You can hear that in her voice and see that in her laugh lines.

She does not stop just with her kids though. She strives to provide the same level of support to others in her community. When we met, she was transiting in Male’, from Dhiffushi on her way to Sun Island Resort with the ‘dance group’ of her Club. They were going to perform for tourists. It’s one of their fund raising activities, as well as a source of income and support mechanism for the performers. She is the mother figure and spoke fondly of the team – young men and women. She was asked if she was the manager of the group, to which she chuckled “I am part of the team, I dance too!” Not many Maldivian women of her age will be seen dancing; this speaks volumes about her vibrancy and community spirit.

She has a very positive outlook on life and everything about her community. Dhiffushi Island, with a population of about 1,200, is a typical rural island of the Maldives. The close proximity to the city has its advantages, and yet it is comfortably isolated and relatively quiet and peaceful.

Her outgoing personality ensures that she makes thriving networks wherever she goes. One effort she recalls with delight is getting the much needed resources to refurbish the community school premises through the financial backing of a resort she is acquainted with. Of other accomplishments, she marks with pride the Club’s role in installation of electricity on the island for the first time. “It was not the government, but the Unity Club that met this basic need”. She draws a picture of jovial camaraderie in such endeavors, especially by the women. “The men do the work, we feed them”.

She reaffirms that women in her community are very much empowered and have freedom in comparison to what we hear in the media. However, shortage of employment is an issue and this mostly affects women, she says. Most young men follow their fathers` footsteps into fishing, while women do not have much of an opportunity at economic activity. Faiza does not let this rest though - she had helped some women to start weaving of coconut palm fronds. These are then bought by resorts for thatching of their cottages, and provide some income to local women.

She recounts with gravity that there are social issues that still need to be tackled – including drug abuse, skill-building for more sustainable employment opportunities, and further education. Faiza is an energetic and kind soul who advocates dialogue, mutual respect, and compassion in addressing such issues. Her free spirit, ability to travel widely and frequently, and her commitment to her husband and family also speak volumes about the role of men in empowering women. If there is a lesson to be learned from her story, it is about positivity, generosity of volunteerism, and a harmonized co-existence that ensures success.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Faiza (in blue striped top) hoisting the flag of Kaafu Dhiffushi Unity Club in January 2013 in a nationwide campaign for solidarity. This was the initiation rally of the campaign held in Male’ City.
Areal view of Dhiffushi Island. Dhiffushi is an island North East of Male’ City that can be reached by boat in about 20 minutes. The Ferry system is such that one cannot visit Male’ City and return to the island the same day.
Faiza (in green) representing her Club in the National Forum of Non-Governmental-Organizations, Nov 2012


Nakinti's picture

Faiza you rock!

Dear Amina,
You just nailed it right here. Right choice [Faiza[ of an activist I must say. I could feel action in her voice in between the life quotes. I will then say kudos to her for fighting beyond the education she didn't have. I am even more proud of her for speaking the truth about herself and her family. Take a look at this part:
""Faiza’s one regret is not attaining an education. Faiza received some education, at Maktabul Ameen, gaining a couple of years of elementary education in her teen years. “My father tried his best. We were poor and there simply were no opportunities back then. I made up though - by ensuring my children got the education that I craved”."""
I love this part of the story the most.
Thank you my dearest Aminah for using your voice and pen to speak for FAIZA. I am proud of her.
Tell Faiza I am sending her my warmest love from Cameroon.
I love you both.

Nakinti B. Nofuru
2013 VOF Correspondent
Reporter for Global Press Institute
Bamenda - Cameroon

Thank you Nakinti, for that lovely feedback about Faiza and her work.
In her simplicity, she spoke volumes about what EVERYONE can do if one tries to.
Imagine everyone trying the way she did :)


Mukut's picture

Am proud of Faiza and you


Let me start by saying that I am a fan of your writing. So beautiful ! You captured the woman, Faiza so eloquently and celebrated her womanhood. Kudos to you and women like Faiza. Simple yet full of warmth and love for her community.

Loved your piece (as always :))

Lots of love and hugs,

Mukut Ray

You yourself are a great writer and it humbles me very much when great writers compliment my writing.

And yes Faiza is someone who needs to be celebrated. We need more people like her - with positivism, activism, and always striving to make the best of the little that is available.


Iryna's picture

Amazing portrait of a bright woman

Faiza is a beautiful woman with a beautiful soul! It’s a big challenge to find the way and give to your children what you never had. Education opens the doors to many things, and Faiza can be proud not only of her children, but also of herself.

Thank you, Aminah, for the amazing portrait you drew of this bright woman!

Warmest wishes from Ukraine,

Aminah's picture

She indeed is very bright

Her energy, her commitment to the family & community, her unwavering effort at society building - these can only be attributed to bright beautiful souls.

As a parting question I asked her what is the one thing that she would want the future be ... and she said "I want to see a peaceful country, a country without such petty political divide as we see now. And I am very proud that I have been able to gift the country with a child who will work in the front-line ensuring safety for others".


Klaudia Mexico's picture

We have thousand of Faizas

We have thousand of Faizas who have chosen their family as priority and the result is a second generation of more empowered women. Great role model.

Klaudia González

Aminah's picture

Empowered women! Yes :)

We women excel as mothers, as wives and as agents contributing to nation development through such a variety of work.
And most often women's work are undervalued in financial terms.
I think we see more female volunteer workers than men. We do it all while taking on all the responsibilities that we have inside the homes. I guess I can take a story angle on that.


Nechesa's picture

a beautiful story

There's a soft glow to your article that I cherish. I really enjoyed the story you told of this activist.


We have too many people who are indifferent to what happens in our society. More people like Faiza will definitely help our developmental efforts.


Nadz's picture

I Loved Your Story

I think your writing had a lot of depth Aminah, it certainly was writing from the Soul. You clearly stood back and allowed your subject to be seen and the descriptions and focus made it clear that you were intent on representing the truth of her. Job well done. Congratulations.

Life is just for living

Aminah's picture

Thank you Nadz

Yes Nadz. I wanted it to be all about her, the why of her, the how of her, etc
I had talked about me enough in my journal posts and just wanted this Profile to be her Profile, the 1000 words to be a tribute to her activism.


pelamutunzi's picture

a selfless leader

iam glad on the positive note that women in faiza's community are empowered and free more than portrayed in the media. her story is that of a true selfless grassroot leader. thank you for her story. her statement that shortage of employment is an issue and this mostly affects women also rings true for Zimbabwean women and now more than ever because of the economy. hope for a better future

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.

Aminah's picture

Thanks Pela for that lovely comment.

Lack of employment opportunities is a great challenge and I guess this lack of a future stops some women from persuing further education. I mean with such a small community base there is limited economic activity too. A more innovative approach is required for the creation of jobs. And Faiza has done that by guiding people for palm frond weaving and other home-based work.

We just need more support from policy makers too.


Aminah, your story was so compelling because of the simplicity of Faiza's life. I believe that sometime we picture a leader as someone with followers, speaking engagements, etc. Faiza leads by example: she educated her children, she volunteers her time to help the larger community and at the same stays humble.
Thank you for this important reminder.
Also, I highly appreciated your descriptions of the island and the context you gave to reader about the population, geographical location, etc...
I am still curious about the Club though. Could you share more about what the Club is, what is its mission, how it gets its funding and how it prioritizes its actions.(only if you have time)
Thank you

Delphine Criscenzo

Aminah's picture

Simplicity is the keyword here :)

Thanks Delphine for that thoughtful comment.

Life for an average Maldivian on the islands is in deed very simple. It is in the city that we all appear to be too busy to pause to appreciate the beauty of life and living, as well as giving. And often time what I witness here is that people who are loud and has a lot of leaders are quite influential given their high profile (of either economic wealth, high status in policy making groups, or affiliations with elite). I do realize it's a bit of an unjust generalization - but still that is the reality over here.
I chose Faiza for her direct involvement with the community.

We find more community spirit on other islands except the capital city, Male'. And traditionally the welfare of the island communities has been overseen by such community clubs/associations and/or a group of leaders from those communities. And this continues to be true to a large extent even today.

The Club Faiza belongs to is one among a few such clubs operating on the island. And according to Faiza, the Club is there for anything related to community efforts for the island community. This ranges from celebration of festivals, hosting of important government and social events (like assistance in the school annual functions, celebration of Eid festivities etc). The club is sustained through a monthly contribution from the members (about 80 she said) and through fund raising activities like that of the Creative Arts group Faiza leads. And quite a lot of work happens on voluntary basis. For instance, they get free help in painting the school while the members of the club provides free food and other assistance in helping clean up after the painters etc.

Simplicity is the keyword here :)

And talking to people like Faiza humbles me and makes me realize the array of opportunities and resources available to the people on the capital city, and yet they are not utilized efficiently.

For me, this assignment has been a celebration of people like Faiza who puts in the effort selflessly.


Hideko N.'s picture

Thank you Aminah for sharing

Thank you Aminah for sharing the story of Faiza, who is not educated but an energetic and kind soul who is making difference in community. There is a lesson to learn: humanistic endeavor can be made regardless economic and educational levels based on one's wish. Sometimes those who may not have as well as those in higher social status may succeed because of her humble nature.

Hideko N.
Support Women and Children in Nigeria

Aminah's picture

making a difference

Yes Hideko,

What matters most is that she is making a difference, irrespective of what she has or do not have.
I loved her spirit.


libudsuroy's picture

Dear Aminah, Faiza the

Dear Aminah,
Faiza the volunteer exemplifies the daily heroism that is essential to the survival of communities in developing countries. The Club in Maldives seems to model the village-keepers who provide a sense of day-to-day leadership. Often, it is this kind of leadership that is seldom appreciated and celebrated. It takes a certain Eye to discern the worthiness of a Faiza.
I also see a little more of Maldives now, beyond facts and figures, through your article.
Thank you so much for this essential writing, Aminah.

libudsuroy/Lina Sagaral Reyes
Mindanao, The Philippines

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

Very true Libudsuroy.
Faiza is the kind of person who need to be celebrated.
People at the grassroots level at the communities are the people who can build the communities.
Their experiences need to be tapped in to for a meaningful change. And her zest for life is very real and I enjoyed my hour I spent with her. She did not feel like a stranger at all, even though it was the first time I had actually talked to her.

thank you for your visit and the comment


Y's picture

A well-told story of the

A well-told story of the power of community commitment! I see many similarities between the activism in Faiza's community and that which has created secure small-town societies in areas of the United States over the generations. I especially love the way you quoted her feelings about her partnership with her husband and her neighbors and friends. Faiza is my idea of a true hero. She is clearly a women of great wisdom and responsible compassion.

I believe that the curse of our earth is anonymity. In creating partnerships for building and caring for community, we create responsible compassion. I, like Delphine, would like more details on the Club. This is a sign of good journalism, when your reader begs for more.

Blessings to you.


Aminah's picture

"Faiza is my idea of a true hero"

thank you Y for that statement. For, I see her as a hero who knows how to balance her life with all the roles one has to play on this world.

I have provided some details about the Club at Delphine comment. Does that answer your curiosity about the Club? What more would you like to know?
I would have certainly shared with you a website if they had one. But with grassroots clubs like these who deals with things in a very practical manner we hardly see much promotional material. They are from the community to the direct benefit of the community with the limited resources at their disposal. But I would certainly give her a call and try and find out more if you would like to.

Thanks for the very thoughtful comment Y.


Karoline's picture


A beautiful story - the spirit of both you and Faiza come out in this story, Aminah. You've not only captured the essence of what keeps so many communities going and growing, but are contributing to it with your writing . . .

Aminah's picture

Thanks Karoline.

Your editorial eye helped me in streamlining the story, and I am thankful for your quick feedback.

I am humbled by your kind words.


You have created a piece that enables us to feel closely acquainted with a local leader and the community within which she works and lives. Faiza, as you so beautifully pointed out, leads not necessarily through her words, but through her actions. She's a role model who has effected change in the community by raising empowered children, co-creating a healthy marriage, and linking arms with those in need. The changes catalyzed by women like Faiza ripple outward across communities and the world.

Thank you for bringing her light to us so we can all appreciate it,

I haven't been able to do that :)
I saw all the little detail that went in between her words - those she said and those she did not.

But yes the essence of her greatness is in her strength is in "raising empowered children, co-creating a healthy marriage, and linking arms with those in need". These are no easy fete. Anyone who has been a mother knows what effort it required to bring up well mannered, compassionate children. Anyone who have been married knows what effort it takes to keep a marriage going - and I have met so FEW people who can speak so fondly of marriage. And yes, giving a helping hand to those in need require a lot of humility. Faiza has it all.

So very glad to see you here Amykessel.


Maura Bogue's picture

Great Work!

Great work! Your profile was well-organized, and you included important details to understand what makes your subject newsworthy.

In the future, be careful about bias language. Words like "beautiful" and "loving" when describing a person can infer your opinion about him/her. If another source uses them, make sure to attribute those words to the source.

Overall, really great job!


Aminah's picture

:) nice feedback

Dear Maura

Thanks for those hints. It was the first time I sat with her, talked to her .. and couldn't help use those words "beautiful" and "loving" because I was so moved by her demeanor. I did not expect to be moved such an extend.

But yes. Next time I will keep that in mind.


Hi there Aminah!

I'd like to add to the wonderful comments you've already received about your writing and your choice of Faiza as a subject (particularly Delphine's observation that a person doesn't need followers in order to lead). Having read profiles that are heavy on facts but not feeling, I want you to know that you show courage as a writer by making your own point of view known. Even little things about Faiza: her serene face; the gravity in her voice; her laugh lines and sense of delight. These are the clues I, as a reader, long for, to feel invited into a story. Thank you for the front row seat for this profile!

Salaam! Ketzel

Aminah's picture

:) what a lovely comment Ketzel.

I am so glad you liked it.
It's been a while since I heard anyone talk about marriage with so much love and compassion.
Most people I come across brush off marriage as the kind of thing that one puts up with just to because the society expects it.
Talking to her made me realize marriages do work beautifully for some people.

But yes. her personality, her energy, her drive - these are things that attracted me to her story, to know her, to probe her.
The one hour we sat and talked was worth more than that. And I have no doubt I would have much more to tell my readers if I had had time to see her a few more times and also talk to others who work with her.
Alas, this assignment alone has made me reach out to people in my community.


Amei's picture

This is super - Will is power

This is a brilliant story and I love her spirit as you mentioned. We haven't had the chance to celebrate these wonderful women in Maldives. The scattered community makes is a huge challenge to communicate frequently and support our larger family in other islands.

I am looking forward to my trip to Maldives in December. Cannot wait.

I have been away from this forum last couple of months. I am so happy that you are here to keep Maldives present in this forum.

Faiza is an example to follow. Extend my well wishes to her.

With love

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