Women in large numbers as well as men are participating in the ‘Aurat March’ across Pakistan to mark International Women’s Day, which is celebrated by the global community every year on March 8.
The first Aurat March was held last year in Karachi; this time, the rally has been extended to more cities, including Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Larkana and Hyderabad.
The manifesto demands economic justice, including implementation of labour rights, the Sexual Harassment Against Women in the Workplace Act 2010, recognition of women’s input to the ‘care economy’ as unpaid labour, and provision of maternity leaves and day care centres to ensure women’s inclusion in the labour force.
Among other things, it also demands access to safe drinking water and air, protection of animals and wildlife, recognition of women’s participation in production of food and cash crops, access to a fair justice system, inclusion of women with disabilities as well as the transgender community, reproductive justice, access to public spaces inclusion in educational institutions, rights of religious minorities, promotion of an anti-war agenda, end to police brutality and enforced disappearances.
A resolution to "commend the role of Pakistani women in building up the nation" was also presented in the Senate to mark International Women's Day.
The resolution pointed out that "concrete steps should be taken for women empowerment" in the country. However, the resolution failed to mention what these concrete steps should be.
Today's Senate session was chaired by Krishna Kumari, the first Hindu Dalit woman to be part of the parliament. She was offered to chair the session by Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani.
Women's Day messages
Prime Minister Imran Khan in his message on International Women’s Day reaffirmed his government's commitment to providing women a safe environment so that they could contribute to the country's development.
"We reaffirm our commitment to ensuring women a secure and enabling environment to play their rightful role in our nation's development," said the prime minister.
He also paid tribute to Fatima Jinnah "who stood steadfastly beside the Quaid in his struggle for Pakistan".
PPP's Senator Sherry Rehman, referring to the Aurat March, called to attention a number of issues women face, saying: "I march because women don’t get the same pay or opportunities as men. Because I’m done keeping quiet about sexist jokes, about snide remarks and an unspoken collusion to keep women out of decision-making. I march for my less fortunate sisters who suffer daily indignities."
In another tweet, she said: "I march because I don’t accept violence against women. I march against harassment at the workplace. I march because public spaces are domains where I too have the right to have my voice heard. I march because we still have a long way to go."
Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif lauded "the incredible work our women are doing to strengthen their families, communities and the country".
"The women of Pakistan have come a long way off but a lot needs to be accomplished and soon," he said, adding that the government under the PML-N "introduced massive reforms for women empowerment".
Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said "contributions of women on duty in uniform, at household and especially the ones of martyrs’ families are greatly valued".
"The great Pakistani women have a role and responsibility towards progress of Pakistan,” he said in a message via ISPR.
Finance Minister Asad Umar also shared a message on Women's Day: "Pakistan cannot be the prosperous and peaceful country we want it to be unless women, who are more than half the country, are given the chance to live their lives to their full potential."
National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser said that providing women equal opportunities in every field is one of this government's highest priorities.
"Protection of women's rights is vital in this society," Qaiser said while adding that there is a need for bringing women to the fore and boosting their confidence.
Deputy Speaker National Assembly Qasim Khan Suri said that the 1973 Constitution provides protection to women's lives and property. "It also gives women the right to freely choose their profession, the right to participate in political and activities and the right to choose their education."
PML-N Spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, in her message on Women's Day, said that women have proved their mettle in every field though their extensive contributions.
"The parliament and government should ensure that women are provided their rights, including their fair share of education and wealth," she said.