HYDERABAD: In a historic move, Krishna Kumari Kohli has become the first-ever Dalit woman to be elected to Pakistan’s Senate.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader from a village in Tharparkar is the first-ever senator from a scheduled caste. The 39-year-old is mentioned at No 23 in the Pakistani Schedule Castes Ordinance, 1957.
Krishna’s rise to the Senate was not an easy one.
Born in 1979, Krishna hails from Nagarparkar, a village in Tharparkar where women are to date deprived of basic facilities. She battled hunger and poverty early in her life, and was also a victim of bonded labour.
Her family was tied to bonded labour and she had to give up her education for a year to work on the lands of village landlords.
Despite her hardships, driven by her passion for knowledge, Krishna continued her education at a ‘run-down’ school in her neighbourhood.
“We didn’t have electricity so I used to study under the light of an oil lantern,” she told Geo News.
In what may have been a hindrance to her education, Krishna was married when she was in ninth grade. “Fortunately my husband and in-laws were extremely supportive and encouraged me to continue my education,” she said.
In 2013, Krishna received her master’s degree in sociology from University of Sindh. All the while, she actively worked against bonded labour, sexual harassment at workplaces, and for the rights of women and the people of her village.
Speaking about her goals after being elected to the Senate, Krishna said, “I will not only represent women of Thar but act as a representative for women across the country and speak for their rights.”
She added, “Many laws have been drafted for the rights of women but none of them have been implemented – something I wish to change.”
Highlighting the major issues faced by the people of Tharparkar, she said, “Child marriages and forced conversions are some of the pressing issues which need to be addressed urgently.”
Thanking the PPP leadership for nominating her in the Senate, Krishna clarified she has won on the women’s seat and not the minority’s seat.
Dalit, which means oppressed or broken people, has become an alternate collective identification for the 40 non-Muslim castes declared in the Schedule Castes Ordinance 60 years ago.
PPP also nominated the first-ever non-Muslim senator by electing a Dalit Dr Khatumal Jeewan as Senator in 2009 on a general seat. Engineer Gianchand was the second Dalit to be elected as Senator in 2015 by the PPP, also on a general seat.