About Hanfiya

Concept, as narrated by Marta Humairah Franceschini

I arrived in Madrasa Hanfiya in March 2018, for a brief visit. I had heard the fame of this revolutionary school, and I wanted to check it out with my own eyes. I was expecting to find a very interesting and stimulating reality, but what actually happened went much beyond my imagination.

I simply fell in love with everything there: the girls, the teachers, the people involved, the location, the eerie horizon of the desert and the dazzling starry sky at night. But most of all, with the mission that the school is carrying on.

About Hanfiya

"To give free education and shelter to girls coming from remote and impoverished Muslim communities, where the ratio of female illiteracy is one out of two. And to do it in the Barmer District, one of most underdeveloped areas of the Desert of Rajasthan."

To see a flower blowing in the desert is an event that touches and moves any sensitive soul. It celebrates the victory of beauty and fragility against all odds, something small and delicate that wins over apparently insuperable obstacles. It is an arrow of hope casting the universe. A sacred vision, for those who have eyes to see it. Since 2011 Madrasa Hanfiya has been a flower in the desert of ignorance and poverty, providing a different option to many deprived families for the future of their children.

Today 130 girls live and study at Madrasa Hanfiya

The school has been surviving on spontaneous donations so far, and for that we surely thank God’s grace and generosity. My faith is strong and I am sure donations will keep coming in the next future. But during the time I spent at the Madrasa, talking to the wonderful people who are working there, I was inspired to do something for them. I first thought to raise some further donations from my country, but then a different idea came to my mind.

Why don’t we try to make the school self-sustainable?

Due to the isolation in which they are forced to survive, the people living in the area surrounding the school are extremely talented artisans, skilled in all kinds of handmade crafts: embroidery, quilting, decoration, woven baskets, charpoy, and so on.
That is why I started to think of opening a small handicraft production inside the Madrasa, to preserve the local arts and offer its manufacturing to the global market!

Moreover, in doing so, we could have integrated the girls’ education with professional skills, offering them a concrete chance to live a better life. Zeinab first responded to my idea with ecstatic and passionate enthusiasm, followed by her family, and all the other adults involved in the Institution. That was just all I needed. I decided to start this project, and to dedicate my heart and energy to it.

What I wanted to do was to create a workshop to study and develop these local art-skills, to pass them on to the girls and to give birth to a production to be commercialised. Moreover, I wanted to employ the women in the surrounding areas, belonging to the extremely poor Muslim community, and to contribute towards improving the economy of the region. I wanted the project to have a positive impact on the territory, and therefore my ethical choice was to utilize the fabrics available in the local market, to purchase from small shops in the area, and to capture the taste and creativity of the people living there.

But in order to do this, of course, I needed some support. I went back to Italy with a lot of ideas and many hopes. Generosity has followed me since then. Thanks to many friends and strangers, I was able to raise the first 7000€ to start the project. Five months later I was back in Rajasthan, ready to plant and cultivate my little “flower in the desert”. Check out our Shop to see the results.