KARACHI: After its inception last year, the much awaited celebration by Hum Auratein of the International Women’s Day in Pakistan – the ‘Aurat March’ – took place in various cities on Friday. Placards in hand, the gathering of all on the gender spectrum focused on marching for the rights of women and reclaiming public spaces.
Attended by a plethora of women who ranged from celebrities and social workers to philanthropists and students, the ‘Aurat March’ in Karachi, commenced at the iconic Frere Hall as a day filled with empowering speeches, poetry, song and dance. In what was a visibly larger gathering this year than the last, it was the theme of bringing justice to those on the peripheries.
On the dais, activist and classical dance exponent Sheema Kermani invited women to the platform to speak about the various injustices they have faced in various facets ranging from economical suppression – such as the recent movement of removing encroaching businesses from the Empress Market – to issues of intolerance and prejudice.
Keeping with the theme of walking for justice and rights, many of the attendees too used the event to creatively express themselves via various posters that explored the issues they have faced in many ways. While some looked at it from the lens of patriarchy, gender and normativity, others questioned the rising discrimination against women around the nation.
Amongst such posters and chants, attendees such as Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy also brought into light cases such as that of Afzal Kohistani through her poster, which spoke about the man who was responsible for exposing the Kohistan video scandal and was later murdered for it.
Speaking about the event and the need for it to Instep, the Oscar-winning filmmaker talked about the importance of reclaiming public spaces.
“It’s very important for women across Pakistan, coming out on International Women’s Day. We need to reclaim our parks, streets, our public transportation, and we need to be visible,” Sharmeen said. “We can’t be hiding in our homes any longer; it’s 2019 and the time has arrived for the Pakistani woman to be everywhere.”
Sharing the same belief, fashion designer, activist and co-founder of The Pink Tree Company, Mohsin Sayeed also talked about the need for people to come out in support of such events even more.
“We were here last year and it was great. So many women dancing, singing and just being themselves,” Mohsin said. “Today, we’re here again and we’re participating with our posters and slogans. I am here because I am half for women too; all men are half-woman, they should understand that and realize that the tides have changed.”
Like Sayeed, many more from the media industry too came out in support of the ‘Aurat March’ in a bid to raise awareness that truly, the times are calling for clarity and justice to be served. One such voice was Moor filmmaker Jami, who after shedding light on the predatory nature of the film industry has become an active voice against sexual harassment in the media industry.
“Well, I am here because you know I am quite involved now in speaking out against wrongdoings in the industry,” Jami said. “We had to be here because we can’t be stuck with a mindset that is 200 years old. Secondly, I am here because with the #MeToo movement growing momentum in Pakistan, we need to push it forward.”
In line with a similar discourse about the need for men to be allies for women, actor Adnan Malik spoke to Instep about the importance of support for such events by men.
“If we want to progress as a country and even as a race, it’s really important that men stand by women They don’t have to lead,” Adnan said. “You know, so many people say that we don’t need to have a woman’s day or an ‘Aurat March’ because it’s something that is a part of our everyday life, but unfortunately it isn’t the case right now. I really want more men to come out and be allies. It’s really important this time to be in support of our women so that the country can move forward.”
With the sun setting, the event continued with its march despite the authorities using Pakistan Super League (PSL) festivities as a reason to not allow the marchers to go on the designated route. The ‘Aurat March’ organisers then rerouted the walk to another direction and continued their peaceful protest.