The Karachi chapter of the Aurat March on Wednesday demanded cutting public expenditure, civilian and military, and directing that amount to the people of Pakistan, especially for the rehabilitation of the flood-hit families.
Addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press Club in connection with International Women’s Day, they demanded ending lavish spending like golf clubs and housing schemes, slashing bureaucrats’ extravagant benefits and civilian governments’ extraneous expenditure, especially due to duplicate ministries and divisions at federal and provincial levels.
They demanded immediate relief for and rehabilitation of the flood victims. They also demanded social security and protection through monthly stipends for women and the Khwaja Sira community for their basic needs like food, health and shelter.
They announced that the sixth Aurat March will he held at the Burns Garden near the Arts Council of Pakistan on Sunday. They said they will march for the burden placed on their bodies, whether it is the immense labour they put in to create and nurture societies or the role they play in upholding the economic system or the escalating patriarchal violence they face every day.
Social activist Ghazala Shafique pointed out how the Aurat March management in Lahore was initially given a conditional approval, with the barring of transgender persons from the march. “This was completely unacceptable.”
Transgender rights activist Shehzadi Rai said that there is a particular group in all provinces that is openly against the transgender community. She lauded Aurat March representatives across the country for not succumbing to the pressure of barring Khawaja Siras from the march.
The Aurat March demanded immediate enforcement of minimum wage across all sectors, taking notice on government level of bonded labour in Sindh and Balochistan, shutting down private jails, and setting up safehouses and subsidised shelters for women, Khwaja Siras, transmen and non-binary persons in each district of Sindh.
They demanded that the government uphold the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018, in its original form, and take action against the violence used to intimidate and murder the members of the marginalised community.
They also demanded ending forced conversions and child marriages in the province, pointing out that these practices violate the constitutional guarantees that protect religious freedom and dignity of persons, and the Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act, 2013.
Sindh Labour and Human Resources Minister Saeed Ghani said that the lifelong political struggle and sacrifices rendered by Benazir Bhutto had surpassed even the movement of her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for the oppressed, adds our correspondent.
Addressing a seminar organised by the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Chair of the University of Karachi, Ghani recalled that Benazir’s political struggle had spanned around three decades. He said Benazir had remained in power for some four and a half years, while she had continued her political struggle for 25 years.
He also said Benazir had been imprisoned, her two brothers had been murdered and her husband had also been jailed. Benazir had become the first female prime minister of the Islamic world, a unique honour that can never be taken back as long as the world exists, he added.
The minister said that apart from Benazir, there are a few other women who have performed a significant role in the history of the country, as Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah and Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan are two such women.
He said Benazir’s bravery and struggle were unprecedented in recent history, as she had emerged as a role model for women not only in Pakistan but also across the globe.
Jamaat-e-Islami Karachi Women Wing held a women walk from Coast Guard Chowrangi to the press club, and demanded due rights for the segment of society that comprises half the population.
The slogan that men and women are companions, not competitors was at the heart of the walk, as several participants were seen carrying placards inscribed with such slogans.
JI Karachi chief Engr Hafiz Naeemur Rehman on the occasion demanded that the government ensure all the due rights of women as enshrined in Islam. He demanded that the government ensure women’s right to inherit property and other valuables.
He highlighted the plight of working women across the country, and demanded respectable transportation facilities, permanent jobs in the industrial sector and social security for them.
He censured the Pakistan People Party (PPP) for their allegedly double standards as regards women and their failure to walk the walk. He said the PPP leadership makes tall claims about women’s rights but does nothing to improve the situation.
He also condemned a segment of the NGO sector for minting funds but taking no practical steps for women. He said the West has exploited women to facilitate capitalists, resulting in Western women suffering more than Eastern women.
The number of women entering the healthcare workforce has increased rapidly over the last decade, but women remain under-represented in leadership positions in medicine globally.
To address this gap and support women in leadership roles, Prof Lubna Kamani, president of Pakistan GI & Liver Diseases Society and director of the gastroenterology residency programme at the Liaquat National Hospital, has launched the ‘Women in Leadership League in Medicine’ (Will-Med) forum, with the support of founding partner Ferozsons Laboratories.
Dr Lubna, patron and founding chair of Will-Med, said: “The objective of this forum is to encourage women enrolled in medical colleges to join the medical workforce and realise their full potential.”
Will-Med will provide mentorship, training and support to emerging women leaders in medicine and surgery. It will also arrange webinars, symposia and workshops to promote the network’s objectives.
Ferozsons Laboratories CEO Osman Khalid Waheed said: “Pakistan is blessed to have exceptionally talented women in the health sector, yet despite having outstanding role models, women remain under-represented in positions of leadership. Will-Med’s launch reaffirms our belief that patient care in Pakistan can improve dramatically if we address the leadership gap for women in healthcare.”
‘Scrap anti-women laws’
A Mehnatkash Aurat Rally demanded abolishing all anti-women laws and fixing the minimum monthly wage at Rs50,000. Arranged by Home-Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF), the rally led by HBWWF General Secretary Zahra Khan marched from Fawara Chowk to the Arts Council.
The rally leaders said the capitalist economy has made women wage workers slaves. They said gender-based discrimination, and economic and environmental degradation has hit them hard. The struggle for women’s freedom is basically a part of the war against capitalist dominance, they added.
They said that the ongoing economic crisis in Pakistan has badly affected women and children, adding that some 20 million women and children have been pushed below the poverty line, and it is feared that 10 million more women will go below the poverty line by next year.
They also said that amid this economic crisis, forced sacking of workers from factories and workplaces are affecting most women workers. For millions of women workers, earning opportunities in the formal and informal sectors are diminishing fast, they added.
They pointed out that in the industrial sector, particularly the textile and garment sector, hundreds of thousands of women are working as salaried slaves, and 95 per cent of them are deprived of the basic rights of permanent employment, minimum wage, weekly holiday, social security and pension.
They lamented that there are no equal wages for equal work, while sexual harassment is common as well. They said women have been facing an environment of suffocation not only in factories and workplaces but also in every section of society. Anti-women ideologies are being promoted, while women are not safe from home to grave, they added.
They said that the current crisis demands that the people, especially women workers, organise themselves and begin a struggle for radical changes in economic, social and political structure of the country.
They pointed out that the political and religious parties taking care of the vested interests of the ruling classes have failed to give a programme for bringing real changes in the lives of the masses.
They demanded equal payment, increasing pre- and post-maternity paid leave, protection against sexual harassment at workplaces, child care centres at workplaces, respecting labour laws, abolishing anti-women laws, public transport, and ending the tribal and feudal system, sexual torture, and kidnapping and forced conversions.
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