Most of us do not know that February 12 marks the National Women’s Day for Pakistan. On this day over three decades ago, around 100 women marched on the Lahore High Court to protest against Dictator General Zia ul Haq’s repressive and discriminatory Law of Evidence (which equated the evidence of two women to one man in legal matters).
Celebrating women empowerment and contribution of women in our society, a conference was recently held on this day at the Sindh Governor House with Honourable Governor Sindh Imran Ismail as the Chief Guest.
Titled ‘Women In Focus’, the conference featured a group of influential women from various fields of arts on the panel, who shared their life stories, their struggles and their journey to success.
The lineup included renowned playwright Haseena Moin; acclaimed director-producer Sahira Kazmi; director and CEO Dream Team Films Amena Khan; Chairperson and CEO Unilever Pakistan Shazia Syed; designer Shamaeel Ansari; Oscar award-winning documentary filmmaker and CEO SOC Films, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy; CEO Bond Advertising, Seema Jaffer; makeup maestro Nabila Maqsood and CEO Airwaves Media Seema Taher Khan.
The evening was hosted by Atiqa Odho, who is the chairperson of FocusPK – entertainment and production trade conference – while TV producer and director Misbah Khalid was announced as the Project Head of this newly launched initiative, Women In Focus.
Before opening the floor to panelists, Atiqa Odho recalled the glorious works of some really strong and impactful women in the history of Pakistan. Her list included names like Benazir Bhutto for whom she said, “She was an empowered woman who actually joined politics and gave birth to her child in the office. She was the first woman in the world to do that.”
“Women like us sitting here today, when we want to come out nobody stops us. And this is what this country is all about,” she added.
The panelists took centre stage and recalled stories of defeat, rejection and disapproval before they actually made it to where they stand today. Most of them started from scratch and achieved so much on their own because they had the will to and they didn’t want to limit themselves to conventional roles women are associated with.
Speaking of milestones she went through and the lessons she learnt, Nabila recalled, “I was extremely naughty and rebellious and was often punished and misunderstood for being the person that I was. I was creative. Now being a parent myself, I would have viewed that child very differently, celebrate her creativity and would not have tried to conform her.”
Nabila also shared that since she wanted to have a more meaningful life after she got married to a rich industrialist at a young age, she sold her wedding diamonds to learn how to cut hair. “Invest in yourself, not in jewelry,” she said.
One of the panelists, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who has made Pakistan proud multiple times and has brought two Oscars home as well as other awards, spoke about the need to educate women of their rights.
Reflecting on her public service campaign Aagahi, she said, “This is the kind of content I think is so important to talk about because it propels us educated women about our rights, making sure that every single woman knows how to empower herself and get out of situations.”
Those in attendance included women from the entertainment fraternity including Hina Bayat, Shamim Hilaly, Maria Wasti and others. Chief Guest for the evening, Governor Sindh Imran Ismail addressed the attendees and highlighted how important it is to empower women and give them the respect they deserve.
“We have to create a society that has equal opportunities for both men and women,” he stressed.
It was heartening to see so many women under one roof who have accomplished so much in their lives despite the constraints, be it familial or financial. They have set some great examples for generations to come and we wish to see more and more young girls turning into these industry icons, not just under the ‘Women In Focus’ initiative but also beyond that.