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Karachi

September 23, 2017

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Celebrating Pakistani women of past and present

Pakistan’s 70-year history is a recollection of its leaders’ heroics, a part of it are the unforgettable women who put their shoulder to the wheel and made Pakistan progress in every sector they worked in.

These women and those currently making their mark in today’s Pakistan were the topic of a discussion and documentary shown at Uks Research Centre’s event. Besides the acclaimed women of Pakistan’s past such as Fatima Jinnah, Fatima Sughra, Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali as well as Benazir Bhutto, there are many whose names we are unfamiliar with but who faced immense brutalities at the hands of this society, some were raped, kidnapped and even murdered.

A documentary titled, Pakistani Women, Past and Present, screened at the event, appreciated both the recognised and unrecognised women of the time of Pakistan’s independence and those who exist today.

Followed by the screening of the documentary was a panel discussion, Women of Pakistan: Striving for a gender-just future, which had three renowned females as its panellists, founding member of civil society organisation Bolo Bhi, Fareiha Aziz, lawyer and activist, Maliha Zia Lari and chairperson Shirkat Gah and founding member of Women’s Action Forum, Hilda Saeed.

“In my opinion, the future of women is very bright since today we see women practising different professions such as medicine, journalism and engineering instead of becoming schoolteachers only,” said Hilda.

She praised the media for playing a visible role in providing women a better status in Pakistani society. Referring to the conservative regime of former dictator General Zia-ul-Haq, she observed that legally women have become stronger. “One discriminatory law after the other was passed during 1979 to1982, but with time laws favouring women empowerment were also passed from these very assemblies,” she said.

“There was a time when talking about rape was a taboo. But today, we are free to talk about it. This means that we as a society have progressed,” the activist observed.

However, Fareiha opined that while laws do exist in our society but the mentality of our society was still very conventional. “The society we live in is very stubborn with its thoughts, we live in a place where a difference of opinion can result in the loss of one’s life,” she added.

She quoted the example of activist and founder of The Second Floore, Sabeen Mahmud, who was shot dead two years ago

Maliha, in her address, spoke of our society’s double standards. “If a woman filed for divorce she is asked a number of times whether she had actually made up her mind about getting the divorce. With this comes and additional question, that of how does she intend to survive without a man.” This is how our society forces women to live in abusive marriages, the lawyer observed.

Concluding the discussion, Uks Research Centre’s Executive Director Tasneem Ahmar films opined that teleplays and advertisements leave a great amount of influence on an audience. They have the ability to make a person shrug off stereotypical mindsets, which is why the media needs to work more responsibly, she added.

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