Faryal Ashfaq is a women’s rights activist and student of Anthropology & Sociology at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. Her passion for addressing societal inequalities and her belief in the power of education as a tool for social mobility has profoundly impacted hundreds of students in her native Pakistan and beyond.
Faryal was just 17 years old when she founded the gender rights non-profit organization The Mirror. The organization works on both preventative and curative measures to tackle gender-based violence faced by women, children, minorities, and other vulnerable populations in Pakistan every day. The Mirror advances social justice through educational awareness seminars, offers emotional support through group counselling, and provides legal and financial aid for survivors of gender-based violence and/or women suffering with poverty.
The Mirror has grown to a national team of 50 volunteers and over 250 alumni over the last five years. It gained national recognition when Faryal received the National 25 Under 25 Award for her work and was invited to address the Youth General Assembly of Pakistan. Recently, The Mirror won a $10,000 grant from SheDecides Sparks – a global feminist collective promoting work on bodily autonomy – to implement a consent education curriculum in 40 schools across Pakistan. The Mirror has educated over 200 students across numerous schools, helped over 50 women facing emotional or financial hardship, and conducted countless sessions and panel talks at different social events aimed at creating awareness about the social issues it focuses on.
Faryal also runs a startup Blue Roses that provides students with productivity and writing tools borne out of her own struggles with OCD. In only seven months since its launch, she has successfully sold out two themed collections with four different products, with the proceeds being invested back into the business to continue helping more students.
Faryal has also worked as a workshop facilitator for incoming disadvantaged students, staying in touch with them ever since in an ongoing mentorship role. She also served as a coach for new students throughout their orientation week and the rest of their degree, helping them navigate the various challenges of university life. She has served as a mentor for six young South-Asian girls as part of a leadership development program and, in her free time, helps students and peers with their college applications.
Additionally, Faryal was director of the Feminist Society at my university for three years. She led social media campaigns and video IGTVs promoting awareness on various issues ranging from gender stereotypes, LGBTQ+ movements, body positivity, women in sports and media, and more.
Academically excellent, Faryal received the ‘Dean’s Honor’s List’ Award for all four years of her undergraduate studies and has received a merit scholarship awarded to the top 5% students in her year two years in a row. For her final year project observing inequalities within education, she was presented the ‘Students as Co-Researchers’ grant worth PKR 50,000 to conduct her fieldwork. This thesis then contributed to her application for a master’s degree in Education at the University of Oxford, for which she has received a 160% scholarship.
If Faryal were to win the Global Student Prize, she would use the funds to develop a community centre called “Behno ki Bethak” for young girls in Lahore. Its objective would be to bridge the current gender gap in educational attainment and career prospects by focusing on four separate areas: Education, Empowerment, Wellness, and Independence.