Daughter of a small farmer from Kundarki town in the Moradabad district, Uttar Pradesh, Ilma Afroz has always been a bright student. “After my father passed away, Ammi raised me and taught me the value of hard work.” She went to St Stephen’s College in Delhi to study Philosophy where the foundation of her eventual transition to public service was laid. Her dedication secured her a full-ride scholarship to attend Oxford University for her Master’s.
“But the people around me couldn’t comprehend what it meant for a small-town girl to go study in a foreign land. They'd ask Ammi to marry me off, ‘She’s someone else’s property, there’s no point in educating her so much.’ But I didn’t give up, and Ammi encouraged me to get an education. She’s a very strong woman with an indomitable spirit.” Ilma went to Oxford & even worked part time to look after her living expenses.
After graduation, she moved to New York for a voluntary service programme. But her heart was in India. “I wanted my country to reap the benefit of my education. There was no dearth of opportunities in the US, but I returned home and applied for the civil services,” she says. “Ammi encouraged me to work for the nation.”
Preparing for the exams came along with many caveats including crude remarks from people in her village, “Nobody would want to marry a girl who’s ‘too’ successful.” But that didn’t deter her from her goals. She cracked the UPSC securing an overall rank of 217 & was inducted into the Indian Police Service in 2018.
Back home in Kundarki, she has also founded Hope, a community network promoting education for underprivileged children. Her sphere of influence is far and wide across her village. “Today, the same people who used to nag me want their daughters to be in the IPS,” says Ilma.
Mahindra salutes the challenger spirit of people like Ilma who remind us that with grit and determination, we can achieve anything. #Rise