KARACHI: With the Sindh Assembly building in the background, the deputy speaker happily announced the plans for women-related legislation to all those present.
“A group of female parliamentary members will soon be formed, a bill on provincial commission on women will be presented and that will be followed by bills on domestic and home-based workers,” said a beaming Shehla Raza to a decked-up audience. “We will have legislations for all those women who can’t leave their homes because they aren’t given their rights.”
On Wednesday, female MPAs, along with members of the Aurat Foundation, spent an evening to celebrate the upcoming International Women’s Day on March 8, with an aim of ‘Inspiring change’.
Out in the courtyard of the assembly premises, a beautiful copper and gold marquee was spread out and was adorned with purple lights. Clad in a pink embroidered dress, Raza dashed around the place, making sure that all her party parliamentarians were seated comfortably.
Two Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) parliamentarians sat quietly in a corner, Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz’s Sorath Thebo and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Seema Zia sat at the opposite ends while Pakistan Muslim League — Functional’s female representatives were glaringly absent.
Raza, who insisted on personally greeting all the parliamentarians — using their names to exchange pleasantries — quipped, “Now you know the advantage of being a deputy speaker.” She hoped that the gap in legislation for the genders will soon be eliminated. While women in this region now change the face of politics in countries, Pakistan was once the trend-setter as Benazir Bhutto was one of the first women to not only fight for the equality of women but for the rights of one and all, she recalled.
Those present at the event wore their best clothes — some were in heavily glittered shalwar kameez usually restricted to weddings, others used the opportunity to show off their gold bangles and diamond rings.
Quipping over the sudden influx of new faces in the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) women reserved seats, PPP MPA Farheen Mughal, a much more recognisable figure, said that even she doesn’t know all of the new ones yet.
The event was, however, not restricted to women only. Male assembly members also graced the occasion but would have perhaps wished that they had not. From PPP’s Murad Ali Shah and Hasan Shah to MQM’s Khalid Ahmed, all the men present looked thoroughly bored as the women laughed and joked. Even the usually ferocious Khurram Sher Zaman sat meekly as the women around him seemingly had the time of their lives.
Starting the event an hour and half late, Aurat Foundation’s Rubina Brohi said that change had already come as women are now part of the parliament. She pointed out that the domestic violence bill was passed last year on International Women’s Day, and dubbed it a collective victory for the women of Sindh. “Now the child marriage bill is pending in the assembly, hopefully you will help pass it,” she said, addressing the assembly members present.
Social activist Shahnaz Wazir Ali said that every woman has a story to tell when she decides to leave her home and work for the society or the country, individually or collectively. “The battle for women’s rights should now be fought in the assembly,” she said. “Today there is no dictatorship in the country, but despite democracy, women in many parts are still deprived of their rights. They are forced into marriages, their properties are taken away and they are not allowed to work or study.”