On International Women’s Day, thousands of Pakistani women and men rallied across Pakistan in the “aurat march” (women’s march) to call for political action on women’s rights and equal access to justice. The aurat march began in the city of Karachi in 2018 when a group of women decided to develop the feminist movement beyond the Pakistani upper-class. This decision led to an increasing number of working-class women joining the feminist movement. The march is organised by Hum Auratein, a women’s collective group who conducts community outreach programmes for women.
Moneeza Ahmed, one of the organisers of the aurat march and member of Hum Auratein stated the importance of all women having a voice within the feminist movement: “upper-class women can speak for fisherwomen, but the intent is for every woman to speak for herself and women can speak more if they are given support”. Ahmed continued, that “the issues facing women today are about equality in public spaces, right to work, safety in the workplace, and most importantly, infrastructure support, while the previous generation fought for political rights”. Nighat Dad, another organiser of the aurat march, stated to Al Jazeera that the past generation “laid the foundation stones for the feminist movement” and “we are demanding economic justice, equal labour, acknowledgment of work in the home, equality at work, sexual harassment and access to equal justice as men”.
Hum Auratein and the other organisers of the aurat march should be praised for providing a platform for all women within the feminist movement in Pakistan. Allowing working-class women who are often prevented from accessing such a platform due to their status a voice within the movement is exactly what feminism is about – equality. If women of all classes and status are not provided with equal opportunity to have their voices heard, women’s rights and equal access to justice will only be available to a small population of women. The current feminist movement within Pakistan is a great example of empowered women empowering other women.
The aurat march has gained significant attention worldwide, particularly on social media platforms, as women shared their stories online under the hashtag #WhyIMarch.
As the feminist movement is opened to more women, it is hoped that rights for all women will become a more visible reality in Pakistan and the world.