Name: Maryam Bibi
Where: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Tribal Areas, NW Pakistan
What she does: Works tirelessly for women and children’s rights
Impact: Has enabled women and girls in NW Pakistan to receive education, health and civil rights and pushed the cause of peace and community development to politicians
Nominated by: Marilyn Crawshaw, UK Friends of Khwendo Kor; and Caroline Pym of the J A Clark Charitable Trust
Maryam Bibi’s work in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the remote Tribal Areas of Pakistan – at the heart of the so-called ‘war on terror’ where poverty is grinding and attitudes towards women are deeply conservative – is inspirational.
Born to an illiterate local woman, married at a young age and a mother of four by her 20s, Maryam established Khwendo Kor (KK) (which means Sisters’Home in Pashto) in 1993 to bring improvements for other women. It now employs more than 300 staff from 7 offices. It brings female education where there was none; trains Traditional Birth Attendants to ensure safer maternity care; takes medical camps to remote areas; sets up micro-credit schemes for women to alleviate their poverty and bring them power and dignity; encourages women to exercise their right to vote; and campaigns on domestic violence and corporal punishment.
Maryam and her staff work tirelessly for peace and stability, placing their necks on the line every day of their lives. Death threats are commonplace, their offices have been bombed and their staff attacked. Maryam’s warmth and humanity, fierce intellect, steadfast sense of human rights and capacity to engage with people in all walks of life from senior international politicians to village women is second to none. Her approach to her work is visionary and provides an important model for effective woman-centred, sustainable community development