Dozens of women took to the streets on Friday against the twin menace of power and gas cuts that persists in various areas of Swat. However, this was the first time ever that the women came out of their houses to raise voice for their collective rights of society at large.
Tabbasum Bashir, a social activist headed the protest. “This protest is a slap on the face of the government. Despite cultural and social barriers, the women are here to demand for their rights,” she said.
The protesters held placards reading “Gas doh, Bijli doh” and marched from Shagai to Saidu Sharif, where they demanded the government to end the power and gas cuts. They blocked the main road leading from Saidu Sharif to Mingora and threatened to surround Water and Power Development Authority and Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited offices if their demands were not fulfilled on priority basis.
“The crisis is more severe here than anywhere else in the county. Not only is this an injustice but it has also become intolerable especially for the women running daily chores,” said Neelum Chattan, a civil society member. They demanded an immediate end to the gas and electricity cuts. “The government should realise our problems and issue directives to the departments concerned to end the practice,” she demanded.
Meanwhile, social and political activists saw this outburst as a positive sign. “It is encouraging to see women protesting and demanding for their rights. Women should have equal opportunities in every sector of life,” Rahima Naz, a writer and poet, told The Express Tribune. She added that they should be engaged in decision making at all levels.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2013.