Islamabad: Scores of citizens, including women, students, trade unions lawyers, and progressive political organisations attended the ‘Aurat Azadi Jalsa’ organised by Women Democratic Front (WDF) and Aurat Azadi March (AAM) in F-9 Park on Sunday to commemorate 113th International Working Women’s Day.
The Jalsa features speeches, theatrical performances, poetry recitations and songs demanding equal rights for oppressed sections of society, especially women. Participants chanted slogans and were holding placards inscribed with their demands.
The organisers of the Jalsa also released a communique that included resolutions for the democratisation of the country’s economy and land reforms. It marks the theme of the Jalsa this year: “Restore economy, flood affectees, and peace.”
All speakers at the jalsa underscored that Pakistan is on the brink of disasters on multiple fronts. The catastrophic floods last year left millions homeless and bereft of any hope for survival, as the affectees suffer from hunger, disease, and extreme poverty. Meanwhile, patriarchal violence continues unabated and has established deep roots in both institutional and societal forms. Pakistan records a sharp rise in terrorist attacks with 58 incidents in 28 days.
Ismat Shahjahan, President of WDF, said, “The country is facing an imminent economic collapse, due to capitalism, financial imperialism, and prolonged proxy wars. Nothing less than a progressive gender agenda would work including a decolonized and demilitarised economy and state, a secular and democratic state and society, progressive taxation, and urban and agrarian land reforms.” She said that no society can progress without free education and healthcare for all, and demanded an end to privatisation and huge subsidies to the elite.
Gulzar Begum, leader of the All Katchi Abadi Alliance and Awami Worker’s Party, called for the regularisation of all Katchi Abadis, Bastiyaan, and Goth, where people from war-torn areas, feudal heartlands, and poverty-stricken villages take refuge. She said, “Our Katchi Abadis are not only drowned in floods but also in the sea of inflation.” She demanded a decrease in the prices of daily amenities, as well as urban land reforms to create housing space for the working class.
Anam Rathore, organiser of the jalsa and co-founder of Climate Action Pakistan, highlighted, “The intertwined nature of economic and climate crises have left many of our people at the mercy of nature and an apathetic state. We need eradication of the colonial model of river management, which cannot be done without addressing the gross negligence of the state.”
Farzana Bari, Secretary Women of AWP, stated, “We must recognize the interconnected nature of these crises, and the various forms of chronic oppression and exploitation faced by women. We need to continue organising together to build an egalitarian society.”
Pakeezah, a member of WDF, pointed out the rising transphobia against Khwaja Siras, as a sinister disinformation campaign looms large and puts them in grave danger. “We need to continue building cross-movement solidarities in order to sow the seeds of pro-people feminist politics.”
An art performance, ‘Dharti ka Dum Ghuttha Hai,’ was also a part of the programme. “Our survival and evolution towards a humane socio-political system are intrinsically linked to our shared responsibility toward actualizing climate justice built on socialist principles. For that, the creation of more leftist political art is the need of the hour,” said Areej Hussain, a member of Laal Hartaal.
Ismat concluded, “We have to take feminism to the masses as a 'political agenda', and stand against all the oppressive structures that subjugate the masses. All feminist, nationalist, socialist, and secular democratic forces must form unity to overthrow the structures of oppression and build an egalitarian state and society. Nobody's free until all women are free!”
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