Najima was forced to get married as soon as she completed her class X. But she ran away from home and married a man she had only met twice and that turned out to be a disaster. Her husband was abusive and she walked out of the marriage in six months.
After her divorce, she realised the importance of self-reliance and economic independence for women. She initiated a programme for the local women, called ‘cheng marup’, a rice thrift fund.
“Everyday the women in the group would take out one handful of rice from the quantity to be cooked in their homes.
These were collected and kept in my house, and twice a month, whoever s turn came, she would get the entire rice and she would sell it to earn some money. It was looked with suspicion by the Leikai people, as I was divorced and our saving was considered as theft, but we were determined to keep it running,” she said.
Najima, who is in her forties, has been actively involved in helping women and advocating about women’s rights but it was an workshop on gender equality in 2001 that proved to be a turning point in her life.
“I decided to help everyone and anyone possible and she wanted to ensure that women don t face harassment, abandonment and violence,” she said.
Najima currently runs a shelter home for destitute women.
“But in 2006, religious leaders issued fatwa against me and I was socially abandoned in the village, I was not allowed to take water from the community pond, not allowed to buy anything from village shops. So I am not used to it. It really don t make a difference. My only aim in life is work for the social empowerment of woman so that they don t face abuse,” she said.
Najima is pitted against five other candidates in his constituency including Congress and BJP.
Najima is riding on her cycle everyday to meet people and campaign in her constituency.
“Whether I win or lose, I will continue my work and no one can stop me from doing that,” she said.