KARACHI: Thought-provoking seminars and protest rallies were held across the country on Friday to mark International Women’s Day, which is celebrated by the global community every year on March 8.
Scores of women, men as well as transgender persons came out to participate in the Aurat March staged in major cities of the country, including Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Hyderabad and Larkana.
The march was aimed at expressing solidarity with women from across Pakistan and to push for accountability and restorative justice against violence and harassment at the workplace, at home, in public spaces as well as at the hands of security forces.
The participating women demanded economic justice, including implementation of labour rights, and also raised other pressing concerns such as 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 fair justice system, reproductive justice, access to public spaces, inclusion in educational institutions, rights of religious minorities, promotion of an anti-war agenda and end to police brutality and enforced disappearances.
In Lahore, hundreds of women gathered under the banner of “Hum Aurtain” at the press club and marched to Al Hamra Arts Council, shouting slogans against patriarchy.
In the federal capital, besides the march, several other events were organised to highlight the sufferings faced by women in the country and their contributions to social development and in various other fields.
The British High Commission hosted a multimedia training session and conference for women journalists and bloggers, in collaboration with the Media Training and Research Centre.
Addressing the conference, Joanna Reid, head of the UK’s Department for International Development, said that women were the future of Pakistan and they had the ability to change things.
Besides, Serena Hotels hosted a breakfast morning to celebrate the day and to honour the women from different walks of life, including representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The chief guest was the president’s wife Samina Arif Alvi. Federal Ombudsperson for Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplaces Kashmala Tariq was also present.
In Peshawar, several functions were held under the aegis of different government departments and civil society organisations where participants urged the government to ensure implementation of women protection laws and policies without delay.
Aurat Foundation regional chief Shabina Ayaz, Gulalai Ismail of the Aware Girls, activist Sana Ijaz and former MNA Jamila Gilani shared their views about the significance of Women’s Day and the need to raise gendered concerns.
In Quetta, the day was observed with zeal and passion as seminars were held and a procession was taken out to mark the occasion.
Major events to celebrate the day were organised by the UN Women in collaboration with the Balochistan government and the Balochistan National Party, separately. Activists of the Women Democratic Front took out a procession.
Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani, speaking at the Women Leadership conference, highlighted the role of women in the society and said that without participation of half of the population of the country, Pakistan could not progress and one could not expect the formation of an exemplary society.
Messages pour in 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,” he said.
Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said that the contributions of women on duty in uniform and at household, particularly the ones of martyrs’ families, were greatly valued.
“The great Pakistani women have a role and responsibility towards the progress of Pakistan,” he said in a message issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations on Twitter.
Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Sherry Rehman, referring to the Aurat March, drew attention to a number of issues women faced, 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 unspoken collusion to keep women out of decision-making. I march for my less fortunate sisters who suffer daily indignities.”
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly 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.
Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2019