KARACHI: Hundreds of women took to the streets of Karachi to voice their concerns against economic, reproductive, security and environmental inequality that they face because of their gender at Frère Hall, on International Women's Day in a collective movement entitled 'Aurat March 2018.'
A shared effort of women hailing from different classes, ethnicities, sections and backgrounds who referred to themselves as 'Hum Aurtein', the Aurat March saw a wave of skits, talks and performances highlighting the daily struggles that women face in different spheres, of varying intensities and in various forms.
A four-point manifesto was put together at the Aurat March 2018 regarding which attendees demanded an end to violence carried out against women, promoted by patriarchal forces as well as state-backed discrimination targeting activists and communities, transparent and equitable economy where all workers have access to a living wage, affordable healthcare as well as harassment and discrimination-free workplaces, and implementation of The Protection against Harassment of Women under the Workplace Act 2010.
Another demand was for all the women to have the right to make informed decisions about pregnancy and childbirth and access to quality and affordable reproductive health services, a clean and pollution-free environment for the protection of natural resources and public spaces for themselves and future generations.
However, the center-piece of the movement remained the brightly-decorated posters depicting opinions, views denoted through slogans and taglines that every woman may have wanted to say at least once in her lifetime.
From demanding freedom of choice
to voicing the fact that women should be viewed as humans and not as mere 'honour', these slogans echoed the concerns and reiterated the rights of the entire female community.
Some advocated that trans women are just women. Period.
Others contended that peace is just an illusion if half of the country's population is held back.
During the march, women took center-stage to narrate their stories of fighting patriarchy.
Rehanna Channar, told the participants of the march, about how she saved herself once from being kidnapped by jumping out of the car. "You have the strength and you can save yourself". She said as she urged women to reclaim their spaces. "We own these streets, whether its 11 pm or 2 am."
A teacher at Karachi University shared her experience of being sexually harassed by a male colleague. Upon filing a complaint, she was protected by a brotherhood but she won the case after fighting for it for two years.
Standing up against workplace harassment some women deemed it necessary to propound that if they work and are independent they are not prostitutes.
This march was the first of its kind where women overtly spoke about their lives, goals, ordeals and dreams.
Sadia Khatri of Girls at Dhaba aptly revealed that the discourse around gender is not going to be won by just women or gender non-conforming people. Men have to be in it too because most of the violence is coming in from men. They need to take ownership of their bodies, toxicity and emotional health and start talking about it amongst themselves. One way to do it is to listen to what women have to say, she said.