In 2002, Mukhtaran Mai came into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons – stemming from a hostile feud, Mukhtaran was forced into the house of a local tribe in the village of Meerwala, and then gang raped.

Her story garnered international attention, she went on to write an autobiography and then used her own experience to become an advocate for women’s rights.

In the presence of elites and high profile celebrities, Mai’s appearance on the Pakistan Fashion Week runway has become the most memorable moment of the event. Upon receiving a standing ovation, her appearance was both emotional and symbolic, reflecting the hope in Pakistan for rape survivors.

Mai said: “If one step I take, if that helps even one woman, I would very happy to do that.”

On the runway she maintained a calm composure and walked the ramp for designer Rozina Munib on her debut show for fashion week. The audience emitted a powerful sense of respect and watched in admiration of her courage. Her decision to stay in the public eye is one that hopes to inspire women in Pakistan who have gone through similar ordeals.

The presence at fashion week has reflected multiple messages – most prominently showing that women do not need to hide if they have been victimised. Not only that, she has become the epitome of a free woman as she continuously goes against cultural norms to give a voice to victims of sexual violence.

– Unzela Anna Khan, Correspondent (Fashion)