Mukhtar Mai, the next Mother Teresa?

Happy Black Friday! On this day which is famously (or infamously) known for mass material consumption of goods and products that–let’s face it–we probably don’t need, I thought I would provide just a quick daily dose of your inspirational woman of the day and a gentle reminder that even on this day when shopping sprees abound, we ought to remember the distinct value of the ways in which we spend our time and money. Enjoy yourself today and everyday (I can shop with the best of them!), but let us not forget that even when money is not at our disposal, there is yet so much to be made out of so little.

“Being famous often damages one’s liberty, and enhances one’s responsibilities.”–Mukhtar Mai

Glamour Magazine, which honored her as Woman of the Year in 2005, asks is this the world’s next Mother Teresa?

Mukhtar Mai (who is also known as Mukhtaran Bibi) comes from the small village of Meerwala, Pakistan. And one girl at a time, she is changing the world by wielding both the pen and the sword: she opened a school to teach young girls how to read and write–a school where she herself later enrolled–and openly fought against those who tried to dishonor her for her defiance of an anachronistic way of thinking.

Mukhtar has left a past of gang-rape and oppression behind, while all the while keeping it around her as a reminder of that initial fire that burned within her when she refused to marry her rapist and went instead to the police to report the crime and demand that the perpetrators be forced to shed their veil of impunity.

Soon Mukhtar had founded the Mukhtar Mai School for Girls using compensation money that Pakistan’s President Musharraf and sent to her after hearing about her case and sympathizing.

However, this empathy would not last and Mukhtar would soon find herself harassed and threatened by the same government which had once lauded her. Because of her outspokenness about the issues she was fighting against, the government would rally behind a cry that Mukhtar was shaming Pakistan and therefore needed to be silenced.

But, of course, this would not be possible with a woman as defiant as Mukhtar. The publicity and fame grew and soon Mukhtar was on the world’s stage, speaking out about her cause and being honored for her work.

Throughout it all– the government pressure, fellow Pakistanis taking out their reage on her, and others who were uncomfortable with the newfound influence that a peasant woman from a village of Pakistan had earned–Mukhtar Mai remained strong and determined.

Against the odds, she truly proved herself to be one in a million.

“Mukhtar’s courage is having an impact,” writes Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn in their book Half the Sky, “she has shown that great social entrepreneurs don’t come just from the ranks of the privileged.”

Indeed, they come from a place of determination and passion which is so strong that it not only lit a fire in Mukhtar’s eyes, but lit a fire beneath the entire world as well. We would be foolish not to take notice.


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