Krishna Kumari was the only girl in her school. In fact, she was the only girl that went to school in her entire village.
Her parents approved, and her brother escorted her, but that didn’t shield her from criticism.
People in the village talked about her.
They gossiped, because Ms Kumari was breaking the rules around what girls could and should do in her village.
You see, Ms Kumari was a member of the lower caste — a Dalit, a so-called “untouchable”.
She was also a Hindu, a religious minority in Pakistan.
To top it all off, she came from a family of peasants and bonded labourers.
What on Earth was a girl like that doing, going to school? But it paid off.
Ms Kumari has just become the first lower-caste Hindu female to be elected to Pakistan’s Senate.
More women from similar backgrounds are hoping to follow in her footsteps, despite the huge barriers to female political engagement in Pakistan.
Veeru Kohli is a Hindu woman from Sindh province in South Pakistan.
The 52-year-old was a bonded agricultural labourer for many years — one of an estimated 2 million in Pakistan — now she fights to eradicate this type of slavery.
Ms Kohli has run for election before without success, but women’s leadership programs run by Oxfam are equipping marginalised women like her with campaigning know-how.
So far, she has faced death threats from within her community and bribery attempts from rival politicians.
“Some people offered me money, more than $200,000 not to run for election, saying, ‘Just go and build a house for yourself and have a happy life’ but I refused,” she said.
“I have to fight for these people and I will never surrender.”
But Pakistan had a female prime minister long before Australia
Australia didn’t get a female prime minister until 2010.
In Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto became prime minister in 1988 and again in 1993, becoming the first woman to head a democratic government in a Muslim-majority nation.
But there is a juxtaposition between what a Pakistani woman born to a politically powerful, elite family can…