KARACHI: Residents of Hijrat Colony sat together on rugged mats of the main hall of the union council in the vicinity on Saturday to watch Tehrik-e-Niswan's play, Hum Aurtain, directed by classical dancer Sheema Kermani.
The play was part of a project called 'Rahaat', which is a part of the 2016 Davis Projects for Peace. The play, organised by a student of Yale University, Maheen Zakaria, aims to spread awareness about the issue of domestic violence. The project aspires to bridge the gap between victims of abuse and resources that are available to them, through workshops for women of low socioeconomic status. The play aimed to target both men and women.
Hum Aurtain highlighted various forms of violence against women, including physical, psychological, social and sexual. It shed light on some important issues such as discrimination, harassment, early marriages, eve-teasing that women face on daily basis, unequal access to education and the link between women and the perceived honour of a family.
"I have been living in this area for 40 years and never in my life have I seen women in such strength watching a play alongside their families," said the general councillor and area's Zakat committee chairperson, Ziauddin. "It is a clear indication that consciously or subconsciously we, as a society, are going through a change," he added.
From women's education and economic independence to early marriages and domestic violence, the play touched some of the most sensitive issues that are often ignored in a public discourse due to general uneasiness with such topics. However, it was pleasant to witness applauses during the performances, which showed that the message was being received positively by the audience.
"I have observed that people don't usually talk about gender identities," Kermani told The Express Tribune. "They follow or believe in what they have been told or have seen but once they start pondering upon it, we see a change in their thinking." She said that it was beyond her expectation to see such a response by the audience. "It was such a pleasant feeling to see that the women in the audience were picking up the performances [so] well." A participant requesting anonymity, who came to the play with her toddler, told The Express Tribune that this was her first experience watching a theatre performance. "I loved every single dialogue of it because I can relate with it," she said. "The actions, words, expressions - it was a reflection of our everyday life and there is indeed a dire need to look into the collective societal attitude towards women."
The most astounding element of the play was not in the play itself - it was the response that it received. Women in the audience remained glued to their places despite the power outage and the participants remained engaged with the performances regardless of the temperature in the hall.
The play was followed by a question-and-answer session. The women took lead in expressing their opinions with a consensus that activities such as this that are focused on women-related issues must regularly be presented to them. Clearly, Zakaria, with a little help of Tehrik-e-Niswan, was successful in stirring up some thoughts in the heads of their target audience.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2016.
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