Sudrish is a student at Karachi University who often uses public transport and when she was asked to draw a comic at a workshop, she depicted a woman who was being stared at by a man at a bus stop. The woman decides to cover herself using a large Chaddar.
However, the man continues to stare. In the end she opts for a shuttlecock burqa, but even this cannot persuade the man from gawking at her.
Women are often harassed by men in all walks of city life and this was an issue that was highlighted at the ‘Being a girl in Karachi’ workshop which was organised by the World Comic Network-Pakistan.
This was the first venture of this campaign against harassment of women and the organisation plans to launch it across the country. Once the comic collection increases, there are plans of holding exhibitions and publishing a comic book, much like ‘Bolti Lakeerain’, the first comic anthology of Pakistan, which was also published by the organisation.
The idea is to distribute the comics at a mass level so that these issues are highlighted. “Even a comic which depicts women being teased in buses should be distributed at the stops,” said Nida Shams, the founder of World Comics- Pakistan.
Shams believes that though bigger issues are talked about by civil activists, everyday problems for women such as eve teasing or parents not letting girls ride bicycles should be addressed as well.
“It is a pity that while in other countries a woman’s attire is no longer an issue, in Pakistan it is one of the prime concerns that affect women,” she laments.
Shams, who has worked with women belonging to all social classes, thinks that many girls face the same problems. “A girl travelling in a private car with her driver and one who uses public transport both get leering looks,” she says.
While the nine participants talked about different issues, eve teasing remained one of the most discussed topics. Azmeena, who has long braided hair, drew herself traveling on a bus when a man pulls her locks. She yells at him in retaliation and when people inquire what the commotion is about, she is too embarrassed to explain. Her comic was named ‘What should I say now?’
Another comic shows two girls walking on the street, when a group of boys whistle at them. The girls whistle louder and two dogs emerge and chase the boys away. The participant describes her comic as one where “women take control once and for all”.
Many of the participants believe that using comics as a mode of expression was a brilliant idea. Sidra Rizvi believes that while seminars and boring lectures are forgotten, “a comic is always remembered.”
Another participant explained that “for understanding a comic you do not need to be literate. The message therefore is conveyed more effectively.” She thinks that such initiatives could prove to be a positive developmental tool in a country like Pakistan.