By Salman Ali
March 08, 2016
International Women’s Day, March 8th, is a global day, celebrating social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality. It also encourages women to reclaim their rights and use this day as a step forward in women rights’ struggle.
In 1910, during the Second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin, a leader of Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party Germany, proposed 8th March as the International Women’s Day. Zetkin wanted a day on which women could press for their demands and chart the future course. Women’s unions, clubs, and parliamentarians unanimously approved the proposal. Moreover, there are many countries, such as Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine, in which this day is celebrated as a public holiday. In 1975 the International Women Day was designated by the United Nations on 8th March, and therefore, from there onwards the date for this event was fixed, and on every 8th March this day is celebrated all over the world.
International Women’s Day provides us an occasion to celebrate the achievements made towards women’s progress and to take into account the hurdles that remain. A few years ago, the World Economic Forum ranked Pakistan among the worst countries in the world on its Global Gender Gap report. However, the constitution of Pakistan guarantees the rights of women, but they still face discrimination on all levels. Woman in Pakistan face different challenges and suffer myriad injustices. In Article 25(1) of the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan it is stated: “All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.” Article 25(2) states: “There shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex alone.” However, the state of Pakistan is not successful in granting equal rights to its female citizens. It is very unfortunate but in Pakistan women are not considered equal and productive citizens.
Statistics show that up to 70 to 80 percent women are subjected to woman-enslavement, trafficking, honour killing, sexual harassment, acid attacks and domestic violence in Pakistan. But the present government has recently showed equality and freedom for Pakistani women but it has still a long way to go. For this initiative, there are some women parliamentarians like Marvi Memon who have worked very hard to gain benefits for working class women of interior Sindh, and all across Pakistan. Recently, I had a chance to attend a programme in Karachi honouring inspiring women of Pakistan, who started their struggle from zero, and now they are role models. The basic theme of the programme was to have a dialogue between inspiring women and those working on the grassroots level, how they started their struggle and how they fought for their rights. Here I am not praising any government or any individual; it is just tiny steps for making women feel special and important in this male-dominated society.
While talking with Ghulam Sughra, a renowned women rights activist, regarding women’s day she said, “The issue of women’s rights in Pakistan is multi-faceted and multi-layered. Feminism in this country is not just about seeking justice and equality for women; it is also about unifying women on all levels to seek what is rightfully theirs.”
Moreover, Sughra said that feminism in Pakistan lacked one important component: unity between theoretical and practical work. Furthermore, she said that it was important to remember that all quarters, including the left and the religious parties, have played a significant role in leading Women’s Day all over the world, and in Pakistan. She said, “More than hundred women are killed each year due to so-called honour killing in Pakistan, and this injustice has to be stopped and government and civil society organisations needs to take some solid steps.”
Sidra Saeed, a young progressive leader said, “Regardless of religion, caste or creed, we need to realiSe that a woman is an equal to man. She is as powerful, sensible and intelligent as men. In today’s global world, women are demanding for their social, cultural, political and economic rights. Women cannot be called ‘empowered’ if they are not involved in decision-making process at all levels in different arenas. This year has been wonderful as we can see women flourishing globally on leadership positions, and the world is soon going to witness positive changes in power structures.”
I hope this 8th March 2016 will lead us to a Pakistan that is pro-women. A Pakistan where women-studies and gender are explored and practised with a theory and praxis that has integrity and depth. Where hysteria around women’s bodies and brains has subsided; violence against women has ceased to exist; and women’s bodies and brains are not ‘dishonoured’. A Pakistan where women’s salaries are equal to that of men and they are offered financial transparency; no self-proclaimed incompetent clergy-member insults women; institutions complement one another to ensure progress, provision of physical and mental safety to all women, where woman should be able to walk home safely without fear of being followed, ogled at, and harassed or worse. I wish that Pakistan becomes a country where women’s political agency is dedicated to development and not destruction, and that Pakistan becomes a state where feminist standpoint is fully represented in domains of larger domestic and foreign politics.
Is it possible? Yes, it is possible and achievable. Lets hope that these things can be implemented practically as we still have a long way to go. My request to Pakistani women is to play a stellar role, even challenge males more in politics, as well as contributing in family building and society development.
Salman Ali is a social and political activist based in Lahore. Presently, he is linked with a humanitarian organszation working for the betterment of working class in Interior Sindh.
Source: The Daily Times, Islamabad.
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