Remembering the struggle for women’s rights

Published: September 19, 2016
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Women Action Forum. PHOTO: EXPRESS

Women Action Forum. PHOTO: EXPRESS

KARACHI: Rights activists gathered on Monday to trace back the birth of the Women Action Forum (WAF) and honour the living legend and fellow activist Nigar Ahmed.

Speaking at the event organised by Aurat Foundation at Marriott Hotel, Mahnaz Rehman said, “These women, at a time when tyranny was at its peak, dreamt of a better place for us to live in. Those were dark times 35 years ago when a liberal society and mindset was done away with in days – when suddenly women started dressing differently. By 1979, we took two steps back. And today, we stand on dividing lines. There weren’t many women activists at that time, but they stood up for their rights and that of others.” Malikah Khan said the coming of General Zia was a difficult era, saying “There were journalists, writers and lawyers who suffered under his rule.”

Politician and activist Shahnaz Wazir Ali traced the history of the WAF. She said, “The birth of WAF led to a greater rights movement. The assertion of civil rights sprung from it. A progressive party and its leadership was overthrown. Liberal forces were completely excluded from participating in political activities.”

Anis Haroon, another civil rights activist, said “The WAF was always non-hierarchical and treated everyone within its domain equally. It was and still is a non-funded entity where decisions are taken by consensus and that believes in democratic struggle.”

Women are our unsung heroes. Their collective and individual efforts led to the progress we see today, said participant Masooma Hasan.

Towards the end of the event, Nigar said it was not just her effort but a collective team work. “It is the sacrifices of everyone that paved the way for the rights struggle. I acknowledge each of you in the room for your contribution.”

Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2016.

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