Performers form a drum circle outside the Arts Council theatre to inaugurate the event on Saturday.—White Star
Performers form a drum circle outside the Arts Council theatre to inaugurate the event on Saturday.—White Star

KARACHI: The two-day second Women’s Conference organised by the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi, began on Saturday evening with some delightful musical performances setting an upbeat tone for the formal sessions to come.

First up was an unusual effort in which a group of young musicians trained by the council’s music academy formed a drum circle headed by Shamsul Aarfeen and played a thumping beat pattern. In a way it announced the start of the event with a bang. This happened outside the auditorium where the conference was to take place.

Then the delegates and guests went into the auditorium where the council’s musical band led by guitarist Afaq Adnan and singer Arman treated them to three compositions based on famous Urdu poems.

They kicked off the gig with a new version of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Bol ke lab aazad hain terey and ended with Fahmida Riaz’s Kuchh loag tumhein samjhaen gey. But it was the second tune set to Kaifi Azmi’s Uth meri jaan merey saath hi chalna hai tujhey that brought forth the creative prowess of the young musicians in the true sense. It enlivened the spirits of the men and women who had come to the venue.

Two-day Women’s Conference opens at Arts Council

Call to wage war against injustices, poverty

The opening session of the conference was anchored by Dr Huma Mir. The council’s president Ahmed Shah was the first speaker. He said the struggle for women’s empowerment is not a fight against men. There are a lot of men who have helped empower women. Both genders should join hands to wage a war against menaces such as poverty, injustice and suppression because that’s the most important war to fight.

Writer Noorul Huda Shah delivered the first keynote speech. She said in recent times, on International Women’s Day, a slogan mera jism meri marzi raised by Pakistani girls was severely criticised. Now it’s become a matter of honour of Pakistan.

“I’m the mother of a daughter and the grandmother of a granddaughter. The meaning that was attached to the slogan in Pakistan was painful. I’ve never been part of the feminist movement. I’m a writer. But when I saw how men came out to say that they are the ones who are the custodians of women’s bodies (us ke jism ka muhafiz mard hai), it turned me into a feminist.”

Dr Masuma Hasan, chairperson of the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, was the second keynote speaker.

She said March 8 was a day of celebration. International Women’s Day was initiated from the United States and its aim was to celebrate women’s successes.

Dr Hasan said she salutes all those women who in every period of history have struggled for their rights. It’s because of their efforts that today women have got their rights. At present, the countries that are led by women have done well in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. The disease in a year has snatched a lot of things from us. During this period of lockdown women everywhere in the world behaved with enormous courage.

She also lamented the fact that while laws against evils such as karo-kari have been made, their implementation leaves much to be desired.

Indian actress Shabana Azmi through a recorded video message lauded the council for arranging a conference on women’s rights. Such moots, she pointed out, prove beneficial in resolving important issues. In her country there are areas in which women don’t get their rights, she added.

Indian theatre person Noor Zaheer spoke online. She said today women are not lagging behind in India. In her country, women have played a major part in all the sit-ins against the government. In the ongoing farmers’ agitation, farmers’ women are on the front-lines. Therefore such conferences are important where women can discuss the issues facing them.

Poet Kishwar Naheed, who has flown in from Islamabad to take part in the moot, read one of her poems on the subject to round off the inaugural programme.

The following sessions were on topics such as ‘Meri zindagi mera ikhtiyar’ and ‘Economic empowerment of women’.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2021

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