Krishna Kumari Kohli is a woman on a mission, and she isn’t letting anything get in her way. This year she became the first Hindu Dalit woman to be elected to the Senate of Pakistan on a reserved seat for Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in Sindh — but the road hasn’t been easy. Kohli made her start in Nagarparkar, a small village in Tharparkar, an area where poverty is rife and like many, her family was denied most basic facilities. She persevered through a lack of clean water, food, and basic sanitation by envisioning and running after the proverbial carrot stick in front of her. When asked about her living standards growing up, she said: “We didn’t have electricity so I used to study under the light of an oil lantern.”
Her family and her in-laws (Kohli married in the ninth grade) placed a necessary, and vital importance on her education which helped her flourish. Unfortunately, the lack of this exact kind of support is what leaves so many Pakistani women in arrested development. Pakistan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, with an estimated 45% of women remaining illiterate. Krishna Kumari Kohli has seen first hand how this plays out on a grand scale outside of urban spaces and intends to eradicate it. She went on to complete a Masters degree in Sociology from the University of Sindh in 2013 and was elected to the Senate in 2018. Her policies are built upon campaigning for women’s rights, workplace sexual harassment, and bonded labour. Talking about these issues Krishna has said, “I will not only represent women of Thar but act as a representative for women across the country and speak for their rights.”
Not only has she faced the systemic hindrances and social stigmas that come with being an ambitious woman in rural Pakistan, but also the tragic realities which many villagers continue to face — bonded labour, an act which still enslaves an estimated 2,340,000 people in Pakistan today. Krishna and her family were held in a private jail for three years as bonded labourers until a police raid saw them freed.
Despite many hardships, Krishna has made waves internationally. This year she was added to the BBC’s annual list of the most influential women in the world. This list ranks Krishna amongst 99 other wildly philanthropic and inspirational women, such as Nimco Ali and Jameela Jamil, that have redefined what it means to be successful in today’s age. The power lies in change.
“I am from the Kohli community… from a poor family and I believe it is my good luck that I have made it to such an important list to represent Pakistan,” she said about being a part of the BBC list.
Krishna intends to spearhead new movements surrounding the liberation of marginalised women, and we couldn’t be prouder. There’s every indication of a fresh generation of powerful women emerging in Pakistan, and we couldn’t be happier to see that.