The daughter of farmers, Akeela Naz (born 1976) was the first woman to join Anjuman Muzareen-Punjab, a movement of landless tenants in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, and she has been at the forefront of their struggle for ownership rights to the lands they have cultivated for generations. She has motivated many women to join this million-strong movement, of which she is now general secretary.
A high school graduate from a farming family who could not continue with her education for lack of money, Akeela Naz has secured far more than a college education through her involvement with Anjuman Muzareen-Punjab. As one of the leaders of this movement to secure the rights of tenant farmers, Akeela has weathered false accusations, attacks by rangers and the police, the enmity of landlords, and the disapproval of maulvis (clergies). The movement, which has spread over ten districts of Punjab, was born in 1988 when tenant farmers decided to challenge government departments that controlled the lands they had been cultivating for four generations. The farmers argued, on the basis of revenue records, that the departments did not own these lands. The movement spread rapidly in the 1990s, and mobilized one million tenant farmers under the slogan “ownership or death”. Akeela joined the Anjuman-e-Mazarin in May 2000. She wanted women at the movement’s vanguard because she knew that women had no role in decision-making, and that even if the farmers got their land back, the women might not be able to exercise control. Today, women farmers are at the heart of this struggle, and refuse to be intimidated by the landholders’ aggression. For her work, Akeela, who lives in Khanewal district in Punjab, was elected general secretary of Anjuman Muzareen-Punjab. Akeela is an excellent public speaker and writer, and an efficient organizer. She has worked on other causes such as equal rights for minorities, bonded labor, child labor, and domestic violence. She is chairperson of the Minority Rights Commission of Khanewal, and an executive member of the Minority Rights Commission of Pakistan.
South Asia | Pakistan