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March 8, 2019

Aurat March 2019: When the streets of Karachi thumped with the echoes of 'azaadi'


Fri, Mar 08, 2019

Feet, what do I need them for, if I have wings to fly? - Mexican artist Frida Kahlo

KARACHI: Thousands of women, gender queer and trans members of the society thronged the streets of Karachi on Friday, to raise voice against persistent gender-based inequality and discrimination  under the collective platform of Aurat March 2019.

Organised to commemorate International Women's Day held across the globe on March 8, Aurat March is a  movement led by women, aiming primarily to put them on the pedestal of revolution as they stand up to face oppression and the highly dogmatic  system of patriarchy that exists in our society. 

Calling women hailing from diverse backgrounds irrespective of their economic, ethnic and religious affiliations, the ground-breaking march had a plethora of revolutionary speeches, recitals, music and dance performances with a women-centric rally as the centre-piece.

The march, held at Frere Hall,  kicked off with a dance performance by activist Sheema Kirmani, founder of women's organisation Tehreek-e-Niswan, and had performances by famed folk singer Sanam Marvi and Nirmala Vakhani who had travelled all the way from Umerkot to Karachi just to be a part of the march.

Shedding light on the purpose behind holding the historic rally, Sheema Kirmani shared, "Our issues remain the same today. We have organised the march to raise voice against gender violence, sexual harassment, social norms and gender roles that oppress women from getting access to educational, health, employment opportunities and rights. We are contending to create a just society that does not discriminate against women and exploit them."

The march also brought to the forefront women rights' advocates and volunteers behind eminent NGOs to bring to limelight the lifelong struggle behind fighting for equal rights.

"When we talk about women's day, we should remember that it is a day about freedom for all female members of the society. We take this opportunity to assert that women are also subjected to certain rights," an attendee of the march shared.

Not just women, but a large number of men also came forth voicing support for women at the Aurat March.

"I think the Aurat March is one-of-its-kind event which is important for political mobilisation. It's significant for men and women to come here and march for equality because I think it's high time that men understand the kind of issues that women face and march together with them," said Faizan, a young boy hoping to see change through the march.

Meanwhile, it was heart-warming to see women tourists visiting Pakistan from abroad advocating for equal rights for their Pakistani counterparts.

Wendy from Belgium for instance, who's been visiting Pakistan for the past ten years felt it is vital for women belonging to other countries to stand in solidarity with Pakistani women.

"It's my first Aurat March here and it's wonderful to be here surrounded by so many women mostly but men as well who are here to march for equal rights. I hope one day the women of Pakistan will have as much rights in the public space as I have in my country and that is why I am here marching," she stated.

The manifesto put forth by the march demanded safer workplaces, economic justice and ownership of public spaces amongst participation of Christian and Hindu women who voiced concerns against forceful conversions and  anti-encroachment drives respectively.

Aurat March also brought out notable celebrities and personalities from the entertainment industry, including filmmaker Jami, actor Adnan Malik, singer Rachel Viccaji and comedian Ali Gul Pir.

The march ended with a symbolic funeral of patriarchy in the midst of the rally that saw men, women, transgenders and other gender non-binary community members celebrating their freedom together.