Veero Kolhi is no stranger to adversity. She escaped single-handedly from slavery, and she’s helped hundreds of others overcome fear and intimidation to also break free.
That’s why Free the Slaves honored Veero in 2009 with a Frederick Douglass Freedom Award.
Tomorrow, Veero takes another inspiring step: she’s on the ballot for provincial parliament (Seat PS-50, Hyderabad).
You can read about her courageous run for office in one of Pakistan’s leading news sites, Dawn. They say her candidacy is astonishing.
One of her biggest supporters, Ghulam Hyder of the Green Rural Development Organization, says Veero’s campaign platform focuses on empowering the poor and marginalized:
- Release and rehabilitation of 1.7 million bonded labor slaves.
- Just distribution of opportunities for local people to benefit from Pakistan’s natural resources such as water, oil and forests.
- Provision of equal wages and opportunities for women, and enabling women access to the court system to seek justice.
- Ensuring the availability of education, drinking water, sanitation and other basic services.
There are more than 50 candidates competing in the provincial election on May 11. Veero is the only woman on the ballot, and the only slavery survivor to ever run for a general parliamentary seat in Pakistan, Ghulam says.
Pakistan’s elections have been marked this year by violent attacks on candidates. Veero has been subjected to threats, Ghulam says, but she presses forward.
As Veero herself said in her FTS Freedom Award profile video: “The slaveholders have sent messages that I will be murdered. But I don’t fear them anymore. And I will continue to fight. That is the spirit I have inside me.”
POST-ELECTION UPDATE (Monday, May 13): FTS has received news that Veero did not win the election. But everyone involved in her candidacy has felt that her run for office was a tremendous step forward. Veero has issued this statement to supporters:
I, Veero Kohli, your sister, am grateful to the men and women laborers for giving me more than 6,000 votes despite the fact that I could not contact many of you. This shows your confidence in me for which I am personally obliged to each one of you. I have been striving for you in the past and try my level best to come true to your expectations as long I am alive. May you need my assistance and happen to call me I shall proudly rush to you barefooted. Elections apart, I shall continue working on the manifesto declared by me and will contact you in this respect very soon to form a workable strategy for its implementation in letter and spirit.
Confronting the crocodiles was a herculean task and it was expected the rock-hard centuries old system could not be dismantled in a single stroke; nevertheless it is the beginning which is bound to lead to success. I once again offer my sincere thanks to all my benefactors including the people of my class who trusted me and voted for me.