WHEN women believe in themselves — even while fighting the odds stacked against them — it’s true to say the rest does follow. This month, 39-year-old Krishna Kumari Kohli, a former child bride from a low-caste Hindu community in Sindh’s Tharparkar district, won a seat in Pakistan’s Senate. This is a historic achievement, to say the least, given Ms Kohli has suffered discrimination and poverty and spent two years as a child with her family shackled to a life of hard labour on fields owned by feudal landlords. In her words, she could never have envisaged a seat in the upper echelons of political power, especially when around only one in five women hold parliamentary seats in male-dominated assemblies. As the first Dalit female member of the Senate, Ms Kohli, who ran on a PPP ticket, had perhaps underestimated her abilities. Over years she has shown indefatigable determination to bring about change through her grass-roots activism focusing on education and ending child marriages and bonded labour. Having married at 15, though fortunate enough to attend university, she knows of the travails of young mothers. So how she uses her new position for bringing development to districts with some of the country’s worst socioeconomic indicators will be her test. Preventing child marriage, ending malnutrition, and decreasing maternal and child mortality rates are not easy challenges when corruption is rife and resources poorly allocated. Tackling such entrenched injustices requires perseverance.
Further, while the PPP must be commended for supporting women in politics regardless of religion, caste or gender, it would do well to take note of the shambolic healthcare and education facilities under its governance. For improvement in the country’s abysmal human development indicators, all political parties should work on encouraging gender inclusivity in politics. Party manifestos should outline measures for including more women in decision-making and as nominees for the general seats. It would be wise of politicians to note that women leaders deliver on promises, so supporting them will improve human rights, education, justice and economic development.
Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2018