The Women's Jewelry Association (WJA) has awarded Zulaikha Aziz the WJA-Gabriel Love Foundation Student Scholarship. The scholarship is a $5,000 award given annually to a deserving female student enrolled in design or non-design courses through a jewelry or metalsmithing program at an accredited college, university, or training school.
Zulaikha Aziz is a human rights attorney focused on women's rights and access to justice globally. She is the founder of MAZAHRI, a purpose-driven fine jewelry company founded on the principle that business should be an important force for good in the world, and that jewelry can empower and celebrate the women and men involved in each step of its creation.
Aziz’s love of jewelry and colored gemstones is grounded in her personal story and her Afghan heritage. Her family fled Afghanistan in 1982 and emigrated to the U.S. during a previous war. Her grandmother was able to smuggle out ancestral jewelry, some of which was passed on to Aziz. “I deeply felt the power and meaning of these precious jewels, not only in connecting us to the past, but in showing us the potential for future growth. My grandmother taught me never to forget where I came from and my inherent human dignity.”
Though new to the jewelry industry, Aziz has over a decade of experience working with multilateral organizations, governmental bodies, academia, and civil society organizations to further the goals and aspirations of the world’s most vulnerable communities. She is currently completing a Graduate Gemologist (G.G.) diploma at the Gemological Institute of America. She also holds a B.A. from McGill University, an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics, and a J.D. from UC Berkeley School of Law.
The Gabriel Love Foundation was established by Gabriel & Co., the New York-based fine jewelry brand. It intends its WJA scholarship to provide funding for students who want to achieve professional growth within the jewelry industry. But the foundation also seeks applicants who plan to use their future careers in jewelry to improve communities and participate in charitable efforts.
The WJA Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation, administers WJA scholarships and grants. Since its inception, the foundation has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide education, business support, and mentorship to its members.
The Women’s Jewelry Association raises funds for the foundation’s grants and scholarships throughout the year, principally via its Awards for Excellence Gala, which this year will take place as a virtual celebration on July 27. The event will include keynotes on transformation during times of change and the importance of each business underscoring its company’s purpose to inspire and empower employees and customers. The two keynote speakers are distinguished partners at the Boston Consulting Group.
WJA will also make available two additional, but separate sessions, after its virtual event, on the topics of diversity and mentorship.
Nicole Taylor, a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant and director of the international women's nonprofit Changemaker Chats, will present a “Conversation on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.” Taylor’s work includes launching global employee resource groups, producing women-focused personal and professional development programs, and serving as inclusion committee chair for an intercontinental EdTech company. She was recently featured on Factora Wealth’s “Coffee & Coin” podcast to discuss the economic disparity facing women of color and how all Americans can help bridge the gap.
The second presentation on mentorship will detail WJA’s mentorship programs and will include information on why it’s important for women to cultivate powerful advocates during their careers. It will also discuss the main ingredients that make for a powerful mentor/mentee relationship, and how jewelry professionals can keep learning, developing, and networking as they progress from student to business owner to executive. Presenters include WJA President Jacqueline Cassaway, WJA Member Megan Cochran of MC Jewelry Design, and WJA board’s U.S. Regional Director (Central) Sara Commers of Sara Commers Private Jeweler.