Ruby Khan

An activist from Nepalgunj, Nepal, Ruby Khan (Pathan) has more than six years of experience in advocacy and campaigning to ensure the rights of women and children, pro-poor marginalized and socially excluded communities in Nepal. Her contribution is worth mentioning in the field of reproductive health rights, particularly the safe abortion rights of Muslim and other marginalized women. She is working and contributing in a community where the rights of women, particularly reproductive rights, are often ignored. Here contribution to make the communities aware of reproductive rights is a great contribution to the Muslim and other marginalized women. 

Various safe abortion rights awareness campaigns were organized in order to spread the information and sensitize the community. Ms. Khan has represented Nepal in international forums including the South Asia Safe Abortion Conference to share experience from Nepal. Coming from the Muslim community herself and working on safer abortion rights, equal education for girl children and gender-based violence was a big challenge--even in entering the community with these issues. However, her commitment and dedication to her work for her community and for ensuring the rights of Muslim women and marginalized women keeps her motivated to continue her work. And she is successful in establishing how important women’s health and rights are for the family and community to progress. 

In most of the cases she handled, Ms. Khan had served as a liaison/facilitator between survivors, victims, human rights organizations, and law enforcement authorities. Her trademark is also her big motorbike which she rides and constantly travels with, visiting one household to another to understand their issues, hardly spending time at her office. 

Ms. Khan grew up in Nepalgunj with her three siblings. Her sister got married at the age of 14 and so did a lot of her friends. She recalls witnessing violence, child marriage, children giving birth to children, talak ("divorce" in Islam), and the breaking up of so many families. Her father had never seen how a school looks like from the inside and never believed in educating girls. Her mother, though a housewife herself, was sensitized enough to save some money and send Ruby to school. 

After her parents’ talak, young Ruby grew up witnessing the daily struggles of her mother as she tried to rebuild her life. Fearing a similar fate as her mother, Ruby focused on her education. At the age of 14, Ms. Khan took up a part-time job at the National Women’s Rights Forum (NWRF) in Nepalgunj and that’s how she started her career. 

After years of field experience, Ruby is increasingly beginning to understand how policy-related issues affect grassroots activism. She now wants to get involved with the education of young Muslim boys and girls in madrasas (Muslim schools) because she believes changing the attitude towards women at a young age will help tackle a myriad of problems later on. However, without the unwavering support of her mother, who taught by example that women can do it all, Ruby would not be where she is today. The passion and dedication with which she works, serve as inspiration for others to continue fighting for what they believe in. But for that, women need to be strong.

Having worked her way up NWRF, Ruby was elected General Secretary in 2008. She is also a central committee member of the National Alliance of Women Human Rights Defenders (NWRF) and holds a Master’s degree in sociology from India.
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