Women’s day rallies held amid strict govt guidelines

Published March 9, 2021
Women activists dance during the Aurat March at D-Chowk in Islamabad on Monday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad
Women activists dance during the Aurat March at D-Chowk in Islamabad on Monday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad

ISLAMABAD: Learning from the incidence of violence by right-wing activists during Aurat March last year, the authorities were able to manage strict discipline on International Women’s Day on

Monday through the use of administrative powers, sources in the Ministry of Interior said.

“Strict guidelines were issued to the capital administration to restrict troublemakers and participants of the women day rallies not only within limits but away from each other, “ a senior official of the ministry added.

Two separate marches were held in the federal capital, one by the largely left-wing alliance led by Women Democratic Front (WDF) and Awami Workers Party (AWP) from the National Press Club to D-Chowk.

The other was held by the women wing of Jamaat-i-Islami from Melody market to the press club.

Capital admin restricts participants within designated areas

However, unlike the previous year, students of Jamia Hafsa, proscribed Sipah-i-Sahaba and other groups were restrained from taking out any procession.

Perhaps to maintain pressure on the organisers of the rallies, the local administration did not issue a no-objection certificate (NOC) to any of them.

“We had applied for the NOC three months ago but it was not issued despite the fact that we have been celebrating this day for many years,” said Ms Khushbakht of WDF. However, she lauded the capital administration for providing security and other necessary support to the participants.

The theme of ‘Aurat March 2021’ was to highlight the burden faced by women amid the Covid-19 crisis and highlight the disparity between the wages of male and female employees doing the same job in certain sectors.

Tooba Syed of WDF said in connection with the theme of the march, women belonging to slums were also invited to address the gathering.

“We would also like to see women of religious segments to be part of our march as they too share the same feelings though our approaches are different. They too are demanding that women rights should be given by those who are responsible,” Ms Syed added.

The march ended in solidarity songs and dances and tableau by participants, decrying atrocities against women and children and pledges to continue the struggle for attainment of women’s rights.

At the same time, the speakers restrained from making fiery speeches against the authorities or state institutions.

The Jamaat-i-Islami rally focused on the rights granted to women by Islam and called for the establishment of a religious society so these rights are given to suppressed segments.

Meanwhile, Serena Hotels hosted a women’s day breakfast and a crafts bazaar to acknowledge the trailblazing women and provide support and representation to women social enterprises.Samina Arif Alvi, the wife of President Arif Alvi, was the chief guest on the occasion.

The exhibitors included Pakistan Foreign Office Women Association, Behbud Crafts, Indus Heritage Trust, Mashal Association, Andaaz, Rozan, Nomad Gallery, Care for Special Persons Foundation, Aga Khan Economic Planning Board for Pakistan and Pakistan Air Force Women’s Association.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in a statement acknowledged Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid among one of the outstanding women in leadership during the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.

WHO representative Dr Palitha G. Mahipala said: “Overall, women’s role has been exemplary during the pandemic in healthcare settings around the globe. The day reminds us to honour women who have rendered extraordinary services to humanity during the pandemic. In recognition of Dr Yasmin Rashid’s untiring services during the pandemic, we are pleased to acknowledge her among great women leaders in fight against Covid-19.”

Aurat Foundation hosted a women leadership assembly at the Rawalpindi Press Club followed by a women’s rally.

The celebration brought together women leaders from PML-N, PTI and PPP, human rights activists, artists and around 100 other women under the Women Alliance Pakistan.

Speaking on the occasion, Christopher Khung, head of cooperation, High Commission of Canada, emphasised

the need to include men in the struggle for women’s rights and said Pakistan cannot develop if its women are not empowered.

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) expressed commitment to creating a conducive and enabling environment for women to acquire higher education and garner their full potential.

HEC Executive Director Dr Shaista Sohail addressed a virtual ceremony to celebrate achievements of women beneficiaries of HEC-USAID merit and need-based scholarships and motivate young women to acquire higher education.

Students and alumni from different partner universities of Sindh participated in the online interactive session.

Dr Shaista said women empowerment and gender equality were a part of the HEC’s agenda, adding the Higher Education Vision 2025 also envisaged educated and empowered women.

Director offices of education, USAID, Mark Sorensen highlighted the importance of women empowerment in development of a country and said Pakistan needed more women engineers, entrepreneurs, doctors, teachers, scientists and professional experts.

Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2021

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