40-year-old Najima Phundreimayum, popularly known as Najima Bibi, is the co-founder and co-convener of Irom Sharmila-led People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA) party. Najima, who hails from the Meitei Pangal community of Manipur, set a record by becoming the first Muslim woman candidate to contest in Manipur polls.
A woman from a minority community, Najima faced all kinds of prejudices and atrocities since her early days. Since childhood, she had immense urge to acquire higher education. By the time she turned 12, she was the only girl in class. Several times, she went through offensive comments and verbal harassment by her classmates and villagers. As a result, she was forced to change her school.
At the age of 16, when Najima was in Class 10, her mother stopped sending her to school as she believed that educating her daughter might hamper her marital life in future. Due to immense family pressure, she was left with no choice but marriage.
However, the marriage lasted for merely 6 months. She walked out of her abusive marriage and returned home to her parents to start a thrift fund for women in her village in Wabagai.
Later, with the help of a few women of her village, she formed ten self-help groups (SHGs) who used to contribute and save money on a weekly basis to save and get an average amount to invest in a small locally sustainable business.
With time, the group became a strong platform for discussing injustice and domestic violence among women. Seeing this, some of the local clerics tried to ostracise her.
During those days, she received adequate support from the women of Jamiat-ul-ulema and All Manipur Muslim Students’ Organisation. I am now contesting the assembly elections in Manipur.
Today again, Najima is fighting against the atrocity after Manipuri Muslim clerics warned her against giving any space for her grave in her own village. But with strong determination and support from women’s organisations and Muslim students’ bodies, Najima Bibi is fighting all the critic clerics and is contesting from the Wabagai assembly seat on PRJA’s ticket.
In her campaign, she speaks about fighting for livelihood and the VIP culture in Manipur and seeking justice against money power and muscle power, gender equality, corruption, repealing AFSPA, law and order and the morality of the state.
Out of 60 assembly seats in Manipur, Wabagai and Lilong are the only Muslim-dominated constituencies.