Aurat March

The team in each city is all set to march for gender equality on International Women’s Day 2021

After dominating the discussion on prime-time talk shows last year in March, feminists across major cities of Pakistan are all set to take to the streets again on March 8. Carrying an array of colourful placards in hands and masks on the faces, they will be chanting impassioned slogans to raise concerns ranging from implications of the Single National Curriculum to working conditions of Lady Health Workers.

Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad have dominated the media visibility landscape when it comes to Aurat March but this year, Multan and Hyderabad have emerged as strong participants as well. All the teams participating in the march have their own unique character. Aurat March-Lahore has announced that healthcare is their overarching theme this year on account of the Covid-19 pandemic. Aurat Azadi March-Islamabad’s theme for 2021 is feminist care under pandemic crisis. The Karachi chapter has decided to hold a sit-in instead of a march. It is to focus on patriarchal violence. Each city chapter has its own charter of demands.

“We have worked very hard this year on improving our outreach to working class and transgendeer communities as well as peri-urban areas. We led ration drives for food security and health safety during the lockdown and have been conducting health camps,” says Hiba Akbar, a volunteer and organiser of Aurat March-Lahore. “We learnt a lot during mobilisation for this year’s march and were able to build valuable networks of solidarity in the process. We were able to build connections in different neighborhoods. Our objective was to improve our relationship with the women there by keeping in touch and returning to those places. This is key to building a movement.”

Aurat March-Lahore’s charter of demands is based on 15 immediate demands that cover reproductive rights, working conditions of health professionals, life skills education and disproportionate burden of home and care work on women.

Every year so far, the political held with the intention of generating awareness for grave issues concerning women and minorities has been judged harshly by some people. Every year, Aurat March has had to face the brunt of the prevalent meme culture. Pictures of women have been photo-shopped and circulated in an inaccurate representation of what went on at the march. The messages on placards have been nitpicked and misinterpreted in ways that have made the march a contentious topic, often synonymous with indecency and vulgarity.

This year, it appears that the organising teams of Aurat March have made a deliberate effort to clarify their purpose, reiterate their intentions and get rid of the myths and misconceptions surrounding the march. Interactive content has been placed on social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok.

The team for each city is all set to march for gender equality on International Women’s Day 2021.

The writer is an urban policy enthusiast and a    student of politics and economics at LUMS. She tweets @Shehreen

Aurat March