KARACHI: “I saw at least five different lawn advertisements on my way that were not designed to sell a product, but for the commodification of women,” said Ghausia Rashid Salam, one of the speakers at the Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi’s conference on International Womens’ Day on Tuesday. “Her sexuality is being treated as a commodity — something to be sold.”
While speaking at the conference titled ‘Girls Stand Up for Schools’, she went on to discuss the portrayal of women in the media, gender roles as portrayed in Pakistani advertisements and the issue of safety on social media.
“We need to move beyond the tag of ‘female’ reporter, ‘female’ journalist or ‘female’ anchor person and look at women for the job they do,” said Yusra Askari, a journalist.
“Feminism is not just about women representing women,” said Marium Soomro, another panelist from the banking sector. “The key lies in involving the men, too.”
The panelists went on to talk about new media and agreed that online spaces were reflective of what was happening in society. The compromises a Pakistani woman has to make and the way she has to mould herself according to society in order to keep doing her work were also discussed.
“When you talk to women they don’t want to be treated differently but equally,” said Mishal Masroor, who works in the banking sector. “They are not looking out for positive discrimination as people think.”
The term home-maker also came up for discussion. “Why is home-making only restricted to women? Why does the burden only fall on mothers and sisters and not sons and brothers?” asked Salam.
The Ilm-o-Agahi team also advocated the Up for School Campaign which was started by young leaders around the world. Their goal was to get people to sign petitions for education to develop a sense of urgency in world leaders to fulfill the millennium development goal which promised that every child will be in school by 2013.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 12th, 2015.