On June 22, 2002, in Muzaffargarh district, Pakistan, Mukhtar Mai was dragged into the house of a Mastoi tribesman and was brutally raped by four men. Following this, she was paraded around the streets of her village naked. Fourteen years later, she fearlessly walked the ramp at the Fashion Pakistan Week – 2016.
The 44-year-old was dressed in light-green ensemble that was designed by Rozina Munib in the concluding event of the three-day long Fashion Pakistan Week event. The annual event began as a subversive movement in 2009, in opposition to religious fundamentalists or clerics who sought to restrict a woman’s movement and enforce rigid dress codes.
According to reports, Mai chose to use the Fashion Pakistan Week event as a platform to spread the message about the importance of education. She also hopes that this act will help remove the stigma around victims of gender-based violence.
She told the Associated Press, “I want to be the voice of those women who face circumstances similar to what I did. My message for my sisters is that we aren’t weak. We have a heart and a brain, we also think. I ask my sisters to not lose hope in the face of injustice, as we will get justice one day for sure.”
In 2002, after the gang rape and public humiliation, Mukhtar displayed a similar fighting spirit when she challenged her alleged rapists and tribal council members in Pakistan’s Supreme Court. As a result of her relentless pursuit for justice, fourteen men were put on trial and six were handed the death sentence. But all of them were let out on bail later.
Out of Rs. 500,000 she was awarded by the government as compensation, she set up a school in her village, which she thought would be the best way to address gender inequality and discrimination. Her case was covered extensively by international media, which helped her receive more funding and set up two schools. In 2006, she also established the Mukhtar Mai Women’s Shelter Home in Meerwala to give refuge to runaway or homeless women who were survivors of gender-based violence.
After walking the ramp, she told the Express Tribune, “All that I do, I do it for my children (at the shelter) and women. This is for them. I can’t do this alone hence I found an anchor in the media to help spread my message.”
To know more about her foundation and charity work, visit the Mukhtar Mai Women’s Organisation website.