Fern Holland Award, 2006
In 2002, Mukhtaran Bibi’ s 12-year old brother was accused of holding hands with a girl from a higher caste tribe. As retribution, a village tribunal ordered that Mukhtaran be gang raped. After the sentence was carried out, she was forced to walk home nearly naked before hundreds of villagers.
Yet, instead of committing suicide, as shame and tradition compel many victims of such “honor crimes” to do, Mukhtaran Bibi reported her rape and fought to bring her attackers to justice. Then, in an extraordinary act of vision and generosity, Mukhtaran used the compensation money from her trial to build two primary schools in her village of Meerwala, one for girls and one for boys. Though she herself was illiterate, she profoundly believed that education was the best way to overcome the kind of brutality she had endured.
She is now enrolled in her own elementary school to learn how to read and write. Although Mukhtaran receives constant threats against her life, she refuses to leave her community, where she has also started her own aid organization and ambulance service. From the horror of her ordeal, Mukhtaran Bibi has emerged as a champion of truth, a bearer of hope, and a heroine in the struggle for human rights.