Safeena Husain is an Indian social activist and an entrepreneur. She is known to be the wife of the famous film director, Hansal Mehta. Safeena Husain is the founder of Educate Girls (EG), which focuses on reducing the prevalent gender gap in India.
Safeena Husain was born on Friday, 21 January 1971 (age 51 years; as of 2022) in Delhi, India. She completed her schooling at Delhi Public School, R. K. Puram in New Delhi. In 1995, she earned her Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Economics History degree from The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). LinkedIn In 2012, Safeena Husain completed her Executive Education Program in Building a Global Enterprise in India from Harvard Business School (HBS). LinkedIn In 2015, Safeena Husain, from Harvard Business School Executive Education, completed her Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management (SPNM) course. LinkedIn
Her father’s name is Yusuf Bakshish Husain. He was an actor and a historian by profession.
Husband & Children
Safeena Husain got married to the famous film director, Hansal Mehta, on 22 May 2022 at Taj Campton Place, San Francisco, California.
Safeena Husain has two daughters. The elder daughter’s name is Kimaya.
Rihanna is the younger daughter.
Before getting married, Safeena Husain was in a live-in relationship with Hansal Mehta for 17 years.
Working in the United States
Safeena Husain stayed in London for five long years. After completing her graduation from The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in 1995, Safeena moved to San Francisco (Bay Area), where her degree in Economics helped her get a job in the Silicon Valley. Initially, she started to work for an Internet-based startup, which wanted to build a 3D web browser. However; after working there for nine months, the startup was closed and Safeena lost her job. Safeena, from the beginning, wanted to work for a social cause. In 1995, she was offered a job at the Child Family Health International (CFHI). As an employee, Safeena visited several South American and Asian countries such as Ecuador, Mexico, Bolivia, South Africa and India.
Coming back to India
In 2007, after working for Child Family Health International, Safeena Husain decided to quit her job and head back to India, to start her organisation. Safeena, while working with CFHI realised the impact such organisations have on reducing the gender gap. When asked about the reasons for founding Educate Girls, Safeena, in an interview, stated,
I returned to India to drive the agenda that is closest to my heart — that is of girls’ education. From the very outset, I had a strong personal motivation to make a change in India’s education system primarily because I myself found my pathway through education. A goat is an asset, a girl is a liability. Parents do not want to invest in a daughter’s education. Why should we send her to school? She’ll go to her husband’s house to live. What is the point of her learning?”
During the initial phase of establishing Educate Girls; Safeena had to struggle a lot. During an interview, Safeena said,
They called us mad dogs, and slammed the doors on our faces… all of this was not even surprising for us. For those people, we were strangers who were trying to convince them to challenge the status quo. The talk around girls’ education was not as rife then, as it is today. But even now when we enter a new district, resistance has the same core reason — the mindset.”
In 2007, Safeena started her organisation with only a few employees and volunteers. As of 2021, Educate Girls has more than 9.5 lakh girls enrolled, which in return is benefiting more than 11.5 million families. The organisation also has more than 2,000 full-time employees, being assisted by more than 15,000 community volunteers.
Recognition of her social work
Safeena Husain quickly came into the limelight for her work. In 2019, Safeena Husain delivered a speech about her journey, life experiences and future vision. The speech captivated the audience. Her speech’s video, uploaded by TEDx, has gathered more than 1.7 million views.
Later, in the same year, Safeena Husain was invited to the talk show called Ted Talks India: Nayi Soch. The talk show was hosted by Shah Rukh Khan and the show was aired on Star Plus.
In 2021, Educate Girls signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Directorate of Women Empowerment of the Rajasthan Government.
When asked about her working experience along with the governmental departments, Safeena said,
With the government, we have to build an alignment. By identifying the government’s priority in certain areas and supporting them to achieve their desired goals, we will have a joint vision of success. If the data tells us that the gender gap is greatest in a particular district, that is where we will seek to partner and gain permission from the government to work in.”
In 2021, Safeena’s Non-Profit Organisation partnered with Starbucks to promote Educate Girls (EG).
In 2020, during the second wave of the Corona Virus in India, Educate Girls donated free rations and hygiene kits to the poor households in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The relief material was distributed under the organisation’s COVID Relief Initiative. In 2021, Educate Girls launched the world’s first Development Impact Bond (DIB). The DIB was not only recognised in India but also in different parts of the world. In the same year, her organisation was listed in the Top 100: Most Inspiring Kindergarten to 12th Educationists.
Important positions held in different organisations
Apart from being the director of Educate Girls, Safeena Husain is also an Advisor to several social service organisations such as India Leaders for Social Sector (ILSS), EdHeroes, Bharat EdTech Initiative, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and L’Oreal Paris. She is also working as a Quality Council Member of Dalberg, Community Leader of Community Leader Impact Future Project – Education and she is also one of the Directors on the Board of Directors of Workex.
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- In 2019, Safeena Husain was awarded the Beyond Business Award by Economic Times.
- In 2017, Safeena Husain received NITI Aayog’s Women Transforming India Award.
- In 2016, Safeena Husain was awarded the NDTV-L’Oreal’s Women of Worth Award.
- In 2015, Safeena Husain was listed in the Top 100 List of Most Influential Global Leaders Empowering Women Worldwide. The list was issued by Empowering Billion Women.
- In 2015, Safeena Husain won the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. The award was presented to her by Skoll Foundation.
- In 2015, Safeena Husain was awarded Qatar Foundation’s WISE Award.
- In 2014, Safeena Husain was presented the Stars Impact Award by the Stars Foundation.
- In 2014, Safeena Husain was awarded USAID Millenium Alliance Award. The award was presented by the Minister of Road Transport & Highways, Nitin Gadkari.
- In 2013, Safeena Husain was chosen as a Rainer Arnhold Fellow.
- In 2012, Safeena Husain was chosen as a Women Change Maker India Fellow by Womanity Foundation from Geneva, Switzerland.
- In 2011, Safeena Husain was presented with the Edelgive Social Innovation Honours Award by Edelgive Foundation.
- In 2011, Safeena Husain won India Development Marketplace Competition, held by the United Nations.
- In 2010, Safeena Husain was the winner of the Dasra Village Capital Award.
- Safeena Husain refers to the girl volunteers working in Educate Girls as Balika Volunteers.
- Safeena Husain’s parents separated when she was very young. While staying with her mother, Safeena would often get abused by her stepfather, as a result of which, she escaped to an Ashram. In an interview, Safeena said,
I felt like I was in a thousand pieces. Instead of heading to college, I escaped to an ashram. I began to live on the banks of the Ganges and started reading different types of scriptures.” NPR
- Safeena Husain looks up to her husband and her father, as her role models. In an interview, she said,
For me there are just two people I look up to who are my role models for equality as well, that’s my dad and my husband. They’re both great cooks, which means I’ve never had to learn to cook. My vision of equality is their vision, and so my father and my husband both have reshaped my worldview. They’re sort of my role models.”