Poster for Aurat March
Poster for Aurat March

The coming Thursday is International Women's Day and if you don't have any plans, that might be about to change.

Inspired and fueled by women movements and struggles worldwide, Aurat March is coming to, but not limited to, Karachi on 8 March, starting from Frere Hall 4pm onward. Inspired marches will be happening in Lahore and Islamabad too!).

Women from all walks of life will be mobilising to highlight a diverse range of issues they face and call for economic justice, reproductive justice and environmental justice. Men are also welcome, as long as each is accompanied by two women.

What makes it unique is the fact that it is a collective effort and not spearheaded by any one entity; the flyer distributed by Hum Auratein (We Women) doesn't mention any organisation so it's completely a citizen-led effort, being funded by small contributions from individuals.

Aurat March poster up at City Court
Aurat March poster up at City Court

Images spoke to four women actively participating in Aurat March, each explaining why it means something to them:

Haniya, member of Hum Auratein

"I've worked with women in squatter settlements in Karachi and it's heartbreaking to see the struggles they go through. Even getting an ID card is a herculean task. They have no rights in the workplace, let alone anyone to defend them if they are being exploited.

Hum Auratein at their press conference in Karachi
Hum Auratein at their press conference in Karachi

And it's not just women from the lower income group. Educated, financially independent women go through domestic abuse and violence at the hands of their so-called educated husbands. Is there a domestic violence hotline that women can call? Can they call the police? Societal mores in Pakistan have made it difficult for women to speak out.

Why should we stay quiet if we are being abused, harassed and subjugated?

I'm marching because in the past one year of living here, I've seen and experienced enough. Women need to unite and support each other, instead of standing at the sidelines, looking away and hence perpetuating abusive, violent behavior that men are meting out to other women. Keeping silent means you are complicit too. Don't be a part of the problem. Come march with us, and be a part of the solution."

Sabahat, member of Hum Auratein

"For me, the most important aspect of this march is bringing people who belong to different races, classes, religions, ethnicities, abilities, and genders together to speak up and claim their rights from the state. It is important for women and non-binaries from all backgrounds to speak up about the structural violence they face themselves; instead of other people speaking for them.

The flyer distributed by Hum Auratein
The flyer distributed by Hum Auratein

The power and ability to resist state entities is in itself a privilege and Hum Aurtein is using this privilege to mobilise as many diverse groups of women and non-binary people as possible."

Zoha, member of Hum Auratein

"I think it will encourage people to mobilise more for causes they care about. I think the root cause of why we don’t put ourselves out there more is because we think our voice won’t be loud enough and we won’t ever make a difference.

This March is one of the few things I’ve seen that’s really brought people together who are fighting for similar causes and when you see them working tirelessly for what they believe in, it makes you want to do the same.

Our voice is so much louder together. It’s inspired me so much personally - just in watching you guys work to make this happen day in and day out. Harkat mein barkat hai. The more activity you see, the more you want to keep it going. And that’s the beauty of the march - that it is this incredible unifying force, and that this is just the starting point. In this unity, we are so much stronger than before and that is what I think makes the fight ahead a lot less daunting."

Atiya, member of Hum Auratein

"People turning up at Frere Hall on 8 March can expect women (and allies) from all backgrounds, religions, creeds, a buzzing electricity - this is our time and we're excited to be voicing our concerns! Personally, participating in Aurat March to me means that I am part of the larger conversation about feminism and intersectionality in South Asia and 10 years down the line, I can look back and say I was part of something great and inclusive."

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