Mai Jori is an illiterate farmer, with nine children to care for. She lives in a village called Gullam Muhammed Jamoli in Balochistan where girls have a lower status than livestock, and where villagers like her routinely walk kilometres every day to get drinking water for their families.
A couple of years ago, in her region, three teenage girls and two women were beaten, shot and then buried alive for defying the custom of arranged marriage. A local senator Sardar Israrullah Zehri later stood up in Parliament to say that burying women alive was a local custom that should be respected. Later, Pakistani widower-in-chief aka the Prime Minister, Asif Zardari naturally named him as a Cabinet Member.
In this atmosphere Mai Jori has declared herself a candidate for local elections.
Hats off to her.
Mai Jori is trying to stand tall in a tsunami of misused power. We can only wish her well though all the time wondering how on earth she will ever manage to hold her ground against such a current.
As a journalist in the region, I have covered more stories about the torments that the poorest and most disenfranchised women go through on a daily basis than I can bear to recall. From Bangladesh, to India, to Pakistan, I have heard tearfully recounted stories of rapes, forced marriages, violence, imprisonment and forced prostitution by traffickers.
Over the years, I began to feel that this violence against women, especially in this region would never stop because the mentality would never change. A general mentality that was nurtured in hundreds of different ways, to think of women as intrinsically of less human than men.
But occasionally, the Mai Jori’s of this world offer some light at the end of a long long tunnel of despair.