Mrs Zorah Ismail Sooliman (57), co-founder of the humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers Foundation, graduated recently from UKZN with her Master’s in Social Sciences for research that examined the lived experiences of Muslim women in a polygamous marriage in Durban and its surrounding areas.
Attending her graduation was daughter Samee’a and husband, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman who said he was ‘proud of her achievement.’
Throughout her life, Ismail Sooliman has been an advocate for women empowerment, independence and education. She continuously encourages women to pursue their talents and abilities. ‘We must use our abilities and skills to contribute to the communities we come from to make a difference in their lives,’ she said.
Ismail Sooliman has been at the forefront of the Foundation with her husband since its inception in 1992. Very early in their marriage, she raised their four daughters and only son while her husband flew off to war zones delivering aid to those who needed it the most. She remains the anchor to the family and is still quite active in the Foundation.
After seeing women in polygamous marriages distraught and broken by their husbands taking on a second or subsequent wife, she started running a counseling service called the Gift of the Givers Careline Counselling Service. This service has grown immensely and now extends to the public free of charge through telephone and face-to-face counselling.
She hopes that by gathering the experience of women who are in such situations for her master’s research, it will create awareness in society, particularly amongst men and religious leaders. ‘People will understand and be compassionate towards women who are going through such relationships. It will provide education to them and the communities they come from,’ she said.
She advised other scholars to work hard, be disciplined, determined and keep focused on the end goal. She is grateful for her support system which consists of family, friends, work colleagues and her research supervisor.
Ismail Sooliman plans to continue her work with the Gift of the Givers Foundation and encourages the public to do good always.
Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela
Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan