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Participants vow to continue struggle for equal society

Islamabad : Expressing themselves in creative ways, a large number of people from all walks of life got together to support women’s rights at ‘Aurat Azadi Jalsa’ at F-9 Park on Sunday.

Themed “A City for All,” this year’s Azadi March event was organized on March 6 instead of March 8, the International Women’s Day. The organizers said that the decision to commemorate International Women’s Day on March 6 was taken to ensure maximum participation of women.

Women, men, transgender and children chanted slogans for women’s freedom while carrying placards inscribed with slogans such as “Girls Just Wanna Walk Home Safe,” “Ager Tum Awaz Buland Ker Saki tou Kiya Kehti?,” “Ghar Ka Kaam Sub Ka Kaam, ” and “Patriarchy Vaccine Kub Ay gi” etc.

A girl was holding a placard with Noor Muqadum’s slogan which she carried while attending a rally organized last year after the Motorway incident. The placard mentioned “Hang Them, Destroy Them, Humiliate them, We Won’t Stay Home so that they can grow! NoMore!”

The Jalsa featured speeches, panel discussions, theater performances and ended with songs on women’s freedom. The theater performance portrayed a utopia where people collectively struggle to build a world free of oppression based on principles of egalitarianism and equality.

Various speakers at the Jalsa highlighted the injustices women face in their everyday life due to the structural disadvantages. As part of the panel, “Health, Education and Employment for All”, a Katchi Abadi resident, Seema Bibi, spoke about the class-based discrimination at the hands of the city elite.

She said, “They keep separate glasses for us to drink water from, but we clean your homes, so are we dirty? Women from my Abadi work all day long and we don’t make enough money to even feed our children. We work in extremely difficult workplaces, we are harassed, insulted, and discriminated against on an everyday basis by our employers.”

She lamented that there is no protection for the rights of domestic workers and they face discrimination both by the government institutions as well as the middle and upper-class residents of the city.

Another housing rights activist, Timmer, from the H-9 Rimsha Colony, spoke about the issue of evictions and low-cost housing in cities: “We were moved to H-9 by CDA to this area after a charged mob attacked our Christian community . Now that the city is “developing” and a new road, 10th Avenue, is being constructed. We have been told that our homes will be demolished.”

Ismat Shahjahan, President of the Women’s Democratic Front, spoke about the crucial need to take the feminist political agenda to the people. She said, “Our feminism stands against the oppression of all kinds. We believe in pro-people politics and stand against all oppressive structures that subjugate people. Our struggle is for an equal, just, and peaceful society in which no worker is exploited, no woman is assaulted.”

She further added, “The people of Pakistan have long been suffering, especially in recent times, due to a failing economy, rising inflation. We need a state that serves our people and their needs.”

She said that a true political movement has its roots in the public.

Nayyab Ali, a leader, and representative of the transgender community, highlighted the issues of transgenders in Pakistan. She said, “Our community lives in extremely difficult conditions. We do not have access to housing, education, employment, and old-age support. Older Khwaja Siras has no social protection and many of the young Khwaja Siras are routinely harassed and often killed mercilessly. It is the state’s duty to ensure our right to a dignified life.”

Khushbakht said, “We built this movement and brought women’s issues onto the agenda of mainstream political parties. We will continue our struggle against anti-women policies and also hold all political parties accountable if they continue to fail women of this country. The state, as well as political forces, need to stand with the women’s cause”.

Faryal Rashid of Progressive Students Federation shed light on the issues faced by female students on university campuses. She stated, “The education policies of the current government have severely impacted the students across the country. The rise in fee hikes, unavailability of girl’s hostels, and campus harassment are serious issues that deter women from assessing higher education.”

Other speakers included Nasreen Azhar of WAF, Alia Amirali of AWP, Rehana Akhtar of PTUDC, and Begum Shameem of Mehnatkash Mahaz. Representatives and members of Muttahida Awami Mahaz, Lady Health Workers Union, Progressive Students Federation, Communist Party, National Party, Mazdoor Kissan Party, PFUJ, PWA, RSF, and HRCP were also present at the jalsa. The participants vowed to continue their struggle for freedom from patriarchy, capitalism, neoliberalism and towards the formation of a socialist, feminist, and equal society.

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