VOA Hosts TweetChat With Pakistani Rights Activist and Rape Victim Mukhtar Mai

Pakistani human rights activist Mukhtar Mai, whose struggle for justice began after she was gang-raped in 2002, participated in a groundbreaking VOA-moderated TweetChat Wednesday, describing herself as “neither rebel nor saint, just a woman who wants equality.”

Mukhtar Mai attracted international attention when she defied gender stereotypes and local customs by testifying against the men accused of attacking her on the orders of a local tribal council in retaliation for her brother’s alleged indiscretion.

In a first for VOA, Mai’s comments were posted on the VOA Urdu Service website, translated for the TweetChat into English, and posted on the VOANews.com Twitter page VOAAsia. Questions in English were translated into Urdu for Mai to answer. Thousands of Twitter users followed the exchange and through retweets the number continues to climb.

Mai, who was named one of the world’s most influential people by TIME Magazine in 2004, has become a human rights champion, using the compensation awarded to her by the Pakistani government to establish the Mukhtar Mai Women’s Welfare Organization, a shelter for women, and two schools for girls.

Asked if education made people in her village re-think women’s position in society, she said “People who were against the education of their daughters now attend school events with them.” Mai’s advice on how to further empower women: “Give them [a] voice, stand with them.”

VOA Acting Director Steve Redisch said, “Wednesday’s TweetChat showcases VOA’s ability to bring a compelling story to our global audience, and harness social media sites like Twitter to create a conversation with an inspiring human rights advocate.”

Mai, who still lives in a rural region of Pakistan and has faced threats because of her advocacy, says she was “first a victim, then a survivor and now an activist.” Mai has won several international awards for her work as a campaigner for women’s rights.

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