We are a North American not-for-profit, registered in Canada and the United States. Our purpose is to empower young women, primarily in the Global South, by providing scholarships for post-secondary education.
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We aim to lift such young women, their families and their communities out of the cycle of poverty by igniting a spark of hope. We also believe that empowering young women, especially those from countries in turmoil, strengthens local communities and is key to creating long-term transformational change.
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Our focus is on bright young women who demonstrate leadership potential, but lack the financial means to afford a quality university-level education.
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By working closely with our on-ground partner in the student’s country of origin and our university partners, we help such young women secure the funding they require to pursue university programs at the Bachelor’s, Master’s, Professional and PhD levels.
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Our emphasis on developing women leaders;
our focus on the Global South, especially areas of conflict or those that are under-served;
the financial support we leverage from our on-ground partners and university affiliations, generally on a 1 : 8 ratio;
our strong on-ground assistance for selection, screening and supporting students;
involvement that begins before university, and continues during and after university;
our access to full scholarships at the Bachelor’s, Master’s, Professional and Doctorate levels.
Over the next 10 years, we’d love to support 1,500 young women leaders achieve university education, at the Bachelor’s, Master’s, Professional and PhD levels. We’d love your support in making their dreams come true!
students at all levels
current costs, CAD
fund-raising target, next 10 years
contingent commitments to date
Our Boards of Directors provide governance, oversight and long term strategic guidance
Board of Directors, Canada:
Doug has 35 years of senior business and financial management experience across a diverse range of industries and size of businesses including Molson Breweries (consumer products), Nexient Learning Inc. (TSE listed corporate education and training company), Bowne Internet Solutions (Internet solutions provider) as well as various manufacturing and distribution enterprises. During his career, Doug has also worked as a consultant to a number of start-up companies. Currently, Doug is Senior Vice President & Chief Financial Officer of North American Fur Auctions, a private company with operations in Europe, North America and Asia.
Doug received his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Wilfrid Laurier University and is a Chartered Accountant with a further Corporate Finance designation from the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. Doug has also earned the ICD.D certification granted by The Institute of Corporate Directors.
Lesley provides innovative solutions for companies in the biotech, healthcare and education sectors. Her in-depth knowledge of vertically integrated environments allows her to know what works to successfully bring new and shifting business models to market.
Leveraging her strategic business acumen, Lesley provides a calm approach and multidimensional solutions to complex business issues across multiple sectors. Lesley is also a Chartered Accountant with broad-based financial, C-Suite and M&A experience, having held senior financial and operational positions in Thomson Reuters (SVP and CFO of Nelson Education, COO of Meditech International Inc. and CEO of Studentawards Inc. an organization focused on providing scholarship information to students).
Lesley currently sits on the board for The Hammer Band and on the Advisory Board for HigherEDPoints.com. She is a former board member for Studentawards.com and a former Vice President and President of the Board of the Canadian Publishers Council.
Hassan Shaikh is a finance professional with over 20 years experience in Credit Risk Management in the Financial sector. He has first hand information on the plight of women in the developing world, especially in conflict zones. He has worked on micro credit/ micro finance projects in the past in his native Pakistan. He is a firm believer in the power of education to change the destiny of people.
He holds a master degree in Economics and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Accountants in Ontario.
Diamond is a trainer-consultant in governance-management. His careers include teaching, meteorology, auditing, business and consulting with Canadian and international experiences. He has served as Director of Audit and Professional Development with the Auditor General of Canada.
He has established-strengthened-led internal audit functions including capacity building, designed-developed-delivered training, and has led establishment of compliance management systems, formalized risk management, human resources competency models and best practices.
Diamond’s educational background includes professional accounting designation (CPA, CMA), university degrees in business and science (Chemistry-Mathematics), and post graduate in Meteorology. He has received Queen’s Golden Jubilee and Governor General of Canada awards.
He has served as a volunteer in various community leadership positions, and guided-mentored many youth and young professionals in education and career planning. He is committed to making a difference in the lives of the underprivileged, particularly women, by promoting self-reliance.
Sadia is Managing Director, Royal Ontario Museum. She has an extensive career history in media, cultural industries and not-for-profits. Most recently, Sadia was Director, Original Program Development, CBC News and Centres. Prior to joining the CBC, Sadia was the Executive Director of Women in Film and Television-Toronto.
Sadia’s work has been nominated for five Gemini Awards, and she has won two as part of a team. She has also received dozens of other awards for her media work. In 2007 she was a finalist for the Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy and in 1998 was one of four Canadian journalists awarded a prestigious Southam Fellowship for Journalists at Massey College, University of Toronto.
Sadia also holds two certificates from the Rotman School of Management: The Media Management Executive Education Program (2011), and Small and Medium Sized Enterprise Board Effectiveness Program (2008). She has a BA in Journalism and Communications.
Sadia is often asked to speak at conferences and other events on a range of media, diversity, gender and leadership issues. She is also the editor of At My Mother’s Feet, Stories of Muslim Women. The book sold out of its second printing.
Vina is an international security and peace-building specialist who has spent the last fifteen years working at the United Nations (U.N.) headquarters, in U.N. missions in West and Central Africa, and with non-governmental organizations in China, Central Asia, US and Canada.
She works with organizations and individuals who seek to address global and local injustice across many issues: women’s rights, conflict prevention, social inclusion, corporate accountability, and education. She specializes in strategic advice and services for cross-sector partnerships, resource mobilization, strategic planning, talent management, and organizational restructuring.
A seasoned speaker and advocate, Vina also serves on several boards. Her interests and expertise include policy development and organizational change management; human rights, and gender mainstreaming in fragile and conflict-affected states. She is fluent in Tajik, Russian and English, and holds a Master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University.
Narmin Ismail is a recognized leader in team development with a particular focus on communications and change management. Her focus has been on helping to implement large scale employee engagement and volunteer productivity in both for-profit and not-for profit sectors.
Narmin was the Founder and Vice President of the Eighty20 Group, Co-Founder of the Climb for Leaders and was previously the CEO of the Daughters for Life Foundation. Her passion lies in empowering young women from the developing world through education, which is what led her to establish The Spark of Hope Foundation.
Narmin has a B.A. in Psychology from York University and an MBA from Athabasca University.
Karim is a Principal at Orlando-based Palmeira Holdings LLC, which buys, sells and develops residential communities and hotel projects.
He is also the founder of BlueprintPal, Inc., helping entrepreneurs accelerate the growth of their companies, and the author of the best-seller Keep Any Promise: a blueprint for designing your future.
Karim has more than 20 years of executive-level experience in hospital management and the conceptualization, planning, funding, design, development and project management of complex health care and cultural facilities worth over $1 billion.
He also has 30 years of volunteer management experience, leading senior executive teams in strategic planning, strategic execution and project management of large cultural facilities.
Karim holds an MBA from University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.
Seema is Broker of Record and Partner of FIRE Realty Inc., in Orlando, FL. She has deep international marketing and sales expertise in residential and commercial real estate and property development, gained over the past 20 years. She helps her clients define their investment goals, diversify their portfolio, and invest in real estate that yields superior returns. She achieves this though strong interpersonal and individual relationships, and an extensive international network of high profile brokers spanning the Americas, Europe, and Asia.
Seema is also CEO Kara Consulting Inc., in Oakville, Ontario, where she provides specialized consulting on EB5 Investor Visas & Business Ventures.
She is licensed in Florida and Ontario (Toronto) and a former appraiser, and holds a Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) from Broward Community College.
Kristina is the founder and President of The Rodin Consulting Group. She works with businesses and organizations, of all types, to help them become more productive by tapping the full potential of their human capital. This is done by getting the right people into the right jobs, at the right time. The Rodin Consulting Group guides their clients in hiring the best people, developing leadership talent throughout the organization, and strategic planning to create a high performing workforce.
Kris has over 16 years’ experience in leadership and management positions with ExxonMobil Corporation and a total of 20 years as a practicing Chemical Engineer; but her passion has always been leadership excellence.
Prior to founding Rodin Consulting, Kris earned a B.S degree from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Masters and Ph.D. degrees from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.
Kris has resided in the Greater Houston area for almost 30 years, with her husband, two sons and puggle. She is active in her church, community and enjoys the diversity of dining experiences in Houston.
Sharmeen is a procurement executive with over 15 years of international experience within large complex multinational organisations.
She is passionate about women’s rights and believes that the primary path to an improved standard of living is through education.
Sharmeen holds a BSc degree in Business Administration from Bath University and is a professional member of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply. She is also a fellow member of the Chartered Management Institute.
Sharmeen lives in Europe with her husband Daniel and their long haired chihuahua, Vichy.
In addition to our Board of Directors and Lead Volunteers, there are many other volunteers who support our efforts through their on-going hard work. We are deeply grateful!
Farah is a Partner, Audit for KPMG Toronto. Her skills in financial statement auditing, private business GAAP’s, international financial reporting standards (IFRS) and internal control audit and advisory services have made her a recognized leader within her field.
A prominent member of the Canadian Ismaili community, Farah is a regular volunteer with the Aga Khan Foundation. Farah graduated with Hons. B. Comm. and earned her CA from the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants.
Rafiq is a recognized leader within the entertainment sector. He is currently the General Manager of the Scotiabank Theatre Toronto and the regional General Manager for Cineplex Entertainment in the Greater Toronto Area.
He is a dedicated volunteer within the community, working with the Canadian Red Cross and a proud supporter of the Aga Khan Development Network and Free the Children.
Rafiq has a B.Comm. from Karachi University and related experience in International Development Management and Conflict Management from Humber College and the University of Toronto.
Mira was born in Canada to a Lebanese mother and a Palestinian father and completed her elementary education in Saudi Arabia and high school in Switzerland. She received her BA in Fine Arts from the American College London, and American University Washington DC. In 1999, she moved to Lebanon to pursue her MBA at the Lebanese American University and the American University of Beirut.
Mira has been working with her husband at Vladimir Djurovic Landscape Architecture since 2002 as Communications Director. She has been involved in various projects throughout the duration of her career at VDLA, and has seen them through some important moments such as receiving the American Society of Landscape Architects award four years in a row, as well as the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004.
She lives in Broumana, Lebanon with her husband, two boys and their iguana.
Aly is a Principal at DW Healthcare Partners, a Toronto based Private Equity Fund. He focuses his time on acquiring new investments and working on strategic growth with portfolio companies. He began his private equity career at Clairvest Group and previously worked as a management consultant with Mercer Management Consulting and an investment banker at BMO Nesbitt Burns.
Aly serves on the board of four companies and previously has been on the board of Addus, a not for profit that supports adults with disabilities.
He has an H.B.A. from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario.
Shaheeza Lalani completed her law degrees at McGill University and her PhD in Law at the University of Lausanne.
She is a barrister and solicitor and has worked for the Hague Conference on Private International Law and the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law.
Previously the Director of the Postgraduate Law Program at the University of Fribourg and the Doctoral Program at the World Trade Institute of the University of Bern, she is now a Research Fellow at the University of Paris I – Panthéon-Sorbonne and Senior Legal Counsel with the Geneva Chamber of Commerce and the Secretariat of the Swiss Chambers’ Arbitration Institution.
Hussein is a Canadian Diplomat and the Department’s Desk Officer for the West Bank and Gaza and the Middle East Peace Process. He has previously been with the Aga Khan Development Network, Canada’s delegation to the UN and the Representative Office of Canada in Ramallah before joining the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.
Hussein has a B.A. in Economics and Middle Eastern Studies from Cornell University, and an MSc in Development Economics from the University of London.
Salim has nine years of business systems experience at Telus, where he supported Telus’ $90M professional services portfolio through process sustainment and improvement of methods for identifying / tracking ROI. He also has extensive volunteer experience in creative marketing, brand/image consulting and digital media.
He is an experienced consultant who helps organizations conceptualize, design, develop and implement ideas into business opportunities. He has deep subject matter expertise in digital media technologies with extensive knowledge & experience in social networks, photography and digital media marketing.
Salim has extensive volunteer experience, as a TELUS community ambassador, within the Ismaili Muslim community, with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, at the City of Toronto, with the Aga Khan Museum, while being a community builder and a social media influencer.
Salim has a B. Comm in Business-Information System Management from Ryerson University and Advanced Business Analysis certification from McMaster University. He is also a Project Management Specialist with SCRUM and Agile certifications.