KARACHI: To talk and spread awareness about the issues of women and to fight against society’s stereotypes, Tehrik-e-Niswan organised the Karachi Women’s Peace Table on Saturday.
The peace table included a dance performance, panel discussion, awareness talks and poetry and was held in collaboration with the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research at the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi.
“We have been living in the dark ages, where we think that there is no role of women except as wives and mothers,” lamented activist Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy. He explained that while in the Stone Age this concept may have been applicable as men used to hunt and women used to cook, but in today’s world, where almost everything is done through machines and innovations and there are few professions that require ‘manly power’, the concept of weak women cannot be accepted.
The acceptance of women as equals has emerged in the West but not completely, whereas in our society, we have gone backward in terms of liberalism and rights. “I remember 40 years ago, when I was young, [women] could be seen cycling and wearing skirts [in Pakistan],” he recalled, saying society has become far more conservative in the last few decades.
Rights of women and feminism were not an issue until the men of our society started oppressing women, he said, adding that the voices of women are silenced by saying they are influenced by the West. However, in reality, people keeping them quiet are the ones who want to be in those liberal societies.
During the panel discussion on the ‘Way Forward’, White Ribbon Campaign leader Umer Farooq said that for girls, oppression starts from childhood and is a lifelong cycle.
Sharing some statistics from a survey conducted during his campaign in Lahore, Farooq said that it is so depressing to know that 71% of men feel that they should beat their wives to keep them in line. “We are not fighting against the illiterate but are fighting against the mindset that has given men the idea that beating their wives is not a problem,” he added.
Suggesting ways to deal with the issues, Farooq said that there is a dire need for change in the curriculum, especially the addition of gender issues.
Talking about how the increasing number of females in workplaces is helping fighting for rights, writer Rumana Husain said that it is good to see that the numbers are increasing and women are seen in industries and offices. She said that it is pertinent to say that they are facing more problems in every setup – be it equal pay or seriousness of work.
She also urged everyone to stand against society and fight for their rights. “Students, teachers, lawyers, citizens, everyone should stand against it [irrespective of] their gender,” she urged.
Author Dr Ayesha Siddiqa spoke about how wars indirectly affect women and said that soldiers who die in wars also have mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. Meanwhile, talking about the topic of the peace table, she said that the problems dealt with by women are not only presented by men but also by women in our society who think like men. “Feminism and the fight will not work in any way until there is de-masculinisation in society,” she concluded. Tehrik-e-Niswan and the team also performed on a poem and a documentary on women issues was also played at the event.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2016.