Pakistan’s Krishna Kumari hopes to complete journey from slavery to Senate

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Kirshna Kumari speaking to Arab News. (AN photo)
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Krishna Kumari with her father. (Photo via Krishna Kumari's Twitter account)
Updated 07 February 2018
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Pakistan’s Krishna Kumari hopes to complete journey from slavery to Senate

KARACHI: Krishna Kumari could become the first woman from Pakistan’s scheduled Hindu caste to be elected to the Senate.
Kumari, 38, is a member of the Kohli tribe of the Hindu community living in the Nagarparker area of Thar near the border with India. She is one of a dozen candidates nominated by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) for the upcoming senate elections in March.
“I’m happy, I’m feeling great,” Kumari told Arab News as she arrived unnoticed at the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) regional office in Karachi on Wednesday alongside a number of senators and ministers.
“I never dreamed that I would ever make it to the upper house of Pakistan’s Parliament,” she said.
Kumari began actively working for social change in 2005 after attending several youth leadership workshops. She started out by identifying cases of bonded labor and compiling case studies of women in bondage.
Kumari was quick to stress that she did not feel her position as a member of one of the country’s scheduled castes had held her back.
“Being in a minority has never been a disadvantage in Pakistan. I have never faced any discrimination for being a non-Muslim Pakistani and my selection proves that Pakistan is a country of people from all faiths,” she said. “It is a lack of education (that complicates) our entry to the forums like Parliament.”
Kumari stressed that education, particularly for girls, will remain her top priority for the next six years if she is elected as a senator.
“I have not set many targets. I have only one target and that’s educating all girls of Sindh in general and Thar in particular,” she said.
She added that she hoped to be able to represent disadvantaged women, too.
“In Thar, there was no one to listen to the problems of Thari women,” she said. “With my election to the Senate, they will have their own voice in the top forum of legislature.”
Mehnaz Rehman, a rights activist associated with the Aurat Foundation, told Arab News, “Kumari’s election would (improve) the image of Pakistan, which is (often) criticized for discrimination against minorities.”
Kumari’s journey has not been an easy one.
“My life was the toughest. My family was held for bonded labor when I was a child,” Kumari recalled, explaining that the eventually freed her family.
“Our father, though he himself was illiterate, was determined to give us an education,” she said. “At dawn, I would go to school but (straight after school) my mother would take us to the farmland and we would work there until sunset.”
Kumari credited former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto with opening the door for other women in Pakistani politics.
“It’s the ideology of BB Shaheed which has given women a chance to serve everywhere from the embassies to the foreign office and provincial and national assemblies, to the senate of Pakistan,” Kumari said.
She also expressed her thanks to PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari — Benazir’s son — for the opportunity to “serve Pakistan and promote national cohesion and harmony.”
If elected, Kohli would become just the second Hindu woman to be elected to Pakistan’s senate — after Ratna Bhagwandas Chawla, who sat from 2006 to 2012 — but the first from the scheduled Hindu caste.

Kirshna Kumari waits for her turn to submit the nomination papers. (AN photos)


Migrants need better access to health care in Europe: WHO

Updated 21 January 2019
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Migrants need better access to health care in Europe: WHO

  • In WHO’s Europe region, which covers 53 countries, migrants represent almost 10% of the population, or 90.7 million of 920 million inhabitants
  • In 15 European countries, such as Austria, Turkey and Britain, asylum seekers have access to the same care as the local population

COPENHAGEN: Europe must guarantee migrants better access to health care, the World Health Organization urged Monday in its first report on the health of new arrivals to the old continent, where accessibility varies broadly.
“The most important is the access to health services. To improve their health, it is important to fill the gap for access to basic care,” Santino Severoni, the head of the WHO’s Migration and Health Programme, told AFP.
In WHO’s Europe region, which covers 53 countries, migrants represent almost 10 percent of the population, or 90.7 million of 920 million inhabitants.
But the proportion of migrants varies widely from country to country, accounting for 45 percent of Malta’s population to just two percent in Albania.
Depending on the country and migrant status, they may enjoy full access to the health care system or none at all.
In 15 European countries, such as Austria, Turkey and Britain, asylum seekers have access to the same care as the local population, whereas in Germany and Hungary they are only entitled to emergency care.
“People, and some governments, have been reacting emotionally when it comes to newcomers because of the lack of information and data,” Severoni said.
Contrary to what some may believe, “there is a very low risk ... of transmitting communicable disease from the refugee and migrant population to the host population,” he said.
For example, a large share of HIV-positive migrants contract the disease after arriving in Europe.
In addition, new arrivals are more likely to develop chronic illnesses as a result of their new lifestyle — such as less physical activity and too much fast food — and the poverty conditions some encounter.
While they are at lower risk of developing cancer than local populations — with the exception of cervical cancer — cancer tends to be diagnosed at a later stage, which makes the prognosis less certain.
Migrants’ children are meanwhile at greater risk of being overweight and having psychological problems than children in their host country, the report noted.