Pakistan: Karachi honours gang-rape victims & celebrates a variety of women's successes Print E-mail
Pakistan, March 22, 2007 Thursday Rabi-ul-Awwal 1, 1428

In the name of women

The idea of commemorating the International Women's Day is rooted in the centuries old struggle of women seeking to participate in society on an equal footing with men, writes

By Sahar Majid

Women of the 21st century have realised their importance and are aware of their potentials. In Pakistan, abused women remained silent but now some have the courage to fight for their rights.


The International Women’s Day (IWD), observed throughout the world on March 8, is the celebration of this rising awareness among women. It is rooted in the centuries old struggle of women seeking to participate in society on an equal footing with men. The idea of celebrating IWD first arose at the turn of the century, when the industrialised world was experiencing a period of expansion and turbulence, booming population growth and radical ideologies.

Following the tradition, this year, too, the IWD was celebrated with great enthusiasm. Women in Karachi showed immense interest in commemorating this important day and various women’s organisations and groups organised programmes.

Dr Saeeda Malik, Minister for Women Development, Sindh, held a walk from the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam which was led by Chief Minister of Sindh, Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim. During the second half of the day, students of Karachi University, Aga Khan University, DHA College, St Patrick’s College, School of Nursing, schools from Korangi and Lyari, members of NGOs and men and women representing different strata attended a seminar to discuss the ‘The public role of Muslim women in the history of Islam’. The programme was organised by Karachi Women’s Peace Committee.

Speaking on the subject Dr Khalid Zaheer, an Islamic History scholar, talked of the role played by the women of the Holy Prophet’s family. Regarding the misconception of the subordinate role of women, he stated that it was a misinterpretation of the Quranic injunctions.

Professor Rubina Kramaliani, a PhD scholar teaching in AKU, said nursing was a distinguished profession in Saudi Arabia and Hazrat Rufaida worked as a nurse much before Florence Nightingale.

Another event was organised at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) by women journalists in which Mukhtar Mai, who has become a symbol of hope for oppressed people, was honoured. A woman of substance, Mai was presented an ajrak, a KPC insignia and also nominated for the club’s life-time membership. Two other victims of gang rape Naseema Lubano and Kainat Soomro, were also present on the occasion.

Addressing the gathering, President of KPC, Sabihuddin Ghausi appreciated Mai’s struggle and said she had challenged the system of this country. He said incidents of gang rape were linked to the feudal mindset of society that need to be changed.

A senior journalist, Zubeida Mustafa said the greatest achievement of Mai was that since 2002, when the rape took place, no panchayat has been held in her village.

Writer and columnist Zahida Hina said that what General Zia introduced in the name of shariah was condemnable, but more ironic was the helplessness of the so-called democratic governments that have been unable to abolish these barbaric laws.

Before the ceremony, a movie titled Brave Girl was shown to the guests. The movie, based on the issue of sexual harassment, is a combined effort of World Population Foundation and Tehrik-e-Niswan.

The world has been celebrating International Women’s Day for more than 90 years now. In a country like Pakistan women have identified their importance in the society and are trying hard to bridge the equity gap among men and women. IWD provides a platform to celebrate the successes women have achieved and to bring society’s attention to issues which are still unresolved.

Women in business

Women’s Day was commemorated in glittering style at a local hotel by the members and friends of the Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Its head, businesswoman and entrepreneur Salma Ahmed, opened the proceedings by declaring in her speech that though the number of women in business was growing, in order to make an impact they needed to be organised and represented in major business groupings.

Addressing directly the head of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Majyd Aziz, who was also one of the speakers at this function, she added that the Women’s Chamber should be affiliated with the FPCCI and recognised by it.

Former Ambassador Masooma Hasan in her keynote speech highlighted women’s achievements despite the difficulties they faced. American Consul General Mary Witt expressed her support for Pakistan’s businesswomen as did Fatima Surriya Bajya. Fatima Hassan, a poetess, recited a poem that was enjoyed by the Pakistani business world’s many leading ladies. This well-attended function ended with an enjoyable meal.­ Naushaba Burney