(Clockwise from top) Artists perform a tableau, women hold placards and participants of Aurat Azadi Jalsa sit at the venue in F-9 Park in Islamabad on Sunday. — Photos by Mohammad Asim
(Clockwise from top) Artists perform a tableau, women hold placards and participants of Aurat Azadi Jalsa sit at the venue in F-9 Park in Islamabad on Sunday. — Photos by Mohammad Asim

ISLAMABAD: Feminism stands against oppressive structures that subjugate people. It calls for everyone to struggle for an equal, just and peaceful society where no worker is exploited and no woman is assaulted.

These views were expressed by president of the Women Democratic Front Ismat Shahjahan as she spoke to students, lawyers, teachers and lady health workers gathered at the Aurat Azadi Jalsa. The gathering was organised on Sunday to commemorate International Working Women’s Day.

Participants demanded an end to injustices committed against women across the country while highlighting injustices women face in their everyday lives due to structural disadvantages. A resident from a katchi abadi spoke about class-based discrimination at the hands of the affluent. “They keep separate glasses for us to drink water from but we clean their homes. We work all day long and still do not make enough to feed our children,” she said.

An activist spoke about the issue of evictions and the problems of no low-cost housing in cities.

Participants of Aurat Azadi Jalsa call for an end to discrimination against women, others

A theatrical performance was also part of the jalsa. Nayyab Ali, a leader and representative of the transgender community, highlighted issues of transgender people in Pakistan. She said, “Our community lives in extremely difficult conditions. We do not have access to housing, education, employment and old age support. Older khwaja siras have no social protection and many of the young khwaja siras are routinely harassed and often killed mercilessly. It is the state’s duty to ensure our right to a dignified life.”

Faryal Rashid of Progressive Students Federation shed light on the issues faced by female students on university campuses. She said, “The education policies of the current government have severely impacted students across the country. The rise in fees, unavailability of girls’ hostels, and campus harassment are serious issues that deter women from assessing higher education.”

Representatives from Communist Party, National Party, Mazdoor Kissan Party, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Patients’ Welfare Association (PWA), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) were also present. Participants vowed to continue their struggle of freedom from patriarchy, capitalism, neo-liberalism and towards formation of a socialist, feminist and equal society.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2022

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