Islamabad: Rallies, seminars, dialogues, special events, exclusive media transmission on women issues and sales on famous brands for women marked the International Women’s Day celebrations on Thursday.
Overall, the activity filled day was reflective of the increasing awareness and acceptance of women’s rights. Special messages, statements and declarations issued by different women rights forums demanded measures for further advancement of women rights. At some events, women were acknowledged and awarded for their services whereas in other events, the challenges they face at workplace and home and the way forward was discussed at length.
The most prominent activity was a number of rallies organised by different forums and organisations with titles such as ‘Aurat March’, ‘Azadi March’ etc. All rallies started from National Press Club or F-6 Markaz where the leaders made speeches and shared their demands from the government.
Some prominent organisations and alliances who organised rallies included Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls alliance (EVAWG), Women Action Forum, Awami Workers Party, Women Democratic Front, Pakistan People’s Party. The rally participants expressed solidarity with the women in the world and demanded effective representation and political participation of women not just the right to vote but to contest the upcoming elections and hold their 33 per cent representation in the national and provincial assemblies as well as holding public positions or ministries of the cabinet which are often dominated by male.
IN EVAWG Alliance rally, the participants talked about the pro-women legislations and the gaps in implementing the laws which deprive survivors of violence and human rights violations in accessing justice. They demanded implementation mechanisms at the district, provincial and national levels, educate and sensitize law enforcement agencies and support the women’s machinery in tracking and monitoring progress on the laws passed.
The Co-Chair of EVAWG Alliance Anbreen Ajaib said that celebration of this day in 2018 is very special because it is election year and demanded effective implementation of electoral law 2017. She while appreciating the efforts of Election Commission and NADRA for taking extra measures to provide CNIC to unregistered women, highlighted that still much needs to be done to reduce the backlog of 12 million unregistered women. “It is need of the time to simplify the process of NIC registration, increase the access to the CNIC facility and increase the number of CNIC facilities in the country, so that more and more women get their identity cards.”
Disability activist, Aabia Akram, highlighted the issues of persons with disabilities. She raised demand to increase the quota for disable women and girls at policy level. Former Executive Director Lok Virsa Dr. Fouzia Saeed highlighted the positive aspects of culture regarding women rights. Eminent activist Tahira Abdullah dedicated the day to the services of Asma Jahangir.
In ‘Azadi March’, a large number of working women, political activists, students and intellectuals gathered to inaugurate the socialist-feminist organisation Women’s Democratic Front (WDF). The inauguration brought together women delegates from Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab to elect office bearers and pass a manifesto and constitution envisaging a broad-based struggle against patriarchy, capitalism, national oppression, religious fascism and Pakistan’s authoritarian political system.
Speaking on the occasion, newly elected WDF President Ismat Shahjahan and General Secretary Alya Bakhshal said that Pakistan is currently going through a reactionary period in which patriarchy has taken on a brutal character, oppressed nations are resisting against state oppression for their survival, and the working classes have been forced into contract work or part-time jobs, become migrant labour or face unemployment. The state ideology, structure, laws and development policies are all based on patriarchal principles in which women are given the status of second-class citizens. On the one hand, Pakistan's constitution speaks of gender equality, while on the other hand state policies and laws are based on gender inequality, discrimination and violence which keep women in a state of virtual slavery. Rights activist Farzana Baro took the oath from office bearers.
A two-day workshop on Muslim women as agent of change was also inaugurated on this occasion at International Islamic University (IIU) Islamabad focusing on the responsibilities of women in various roles to counter terrorism and disseminating message of peace.
Rector International Islamic University, Prof. Dr. Masoom Yasinzai speaking as chief guest on the occasion asked the faculty members, staff and students of the varsity, that they should believe in themselves and utilise their power to bring change in the thinking of the younger generation.
“Our mission is to disseminate our narrative in front of international world that we are victims of terrorism who have paid a high cost of this war putting our own security at risk.”
Islam is nothing to do with extremism, he said adding, now the time has come that they have to counter this perception and apprised the world that our basic challenge is how to safe guard our own families from terrorism.
The workshop was organised by IIU in collaboration with Ministry of Religious Affairs to commemorate the International Women Day being observed around the globe on March 8. Earlier, presenting the welcome address, Dr. Farkhanda Zia Mansoor, Director Women Campus, IIU, Islamabad said, they have launched a program ‘Dukhtaran-e-Pakistan’, under which they would describe the role of women in bringing up their children and inculcate in their thinking an inclusive society who fought extremism collectively.
She further informed that they have passed a unanimous declaration that women would teach their children to work together, live peacefully and deny all kinds of extremism. Students of IIU also performed a tableau in the memory of Army Public School martyred children who sacrificed their life due to heinous terrorist activity in their school premises.
In an event organised at National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR), Chairperson NCHR Justice (r) Ali Nawaz Chowhan said that women are nation’s inspiration, strength and character. “Women will determine the destiny of not only our society but of all the societies across the globe.”