On Sunday, women activists gathered for economic justice and rehabilitation for flood victims from last year, calling for an end to patriarchal abuse and femicide in militancy-affected areas. Floods produced by torrential rainfall during the monsoon season displaced approximately 33 million people in Pakistan, killed over 1,700 people, wrecked millions of homes and essential infrastructure, and cost more than $30 billion in damages.
To commemorate the 113th International Working Women’s Day, the Women Democratic Front (WDF) and the Aurat Azadi March (AAM), a socialist-feminist movement, organised “Aurat Azadi Jalsa” at Islamabad’s Fatima Jinnah Park. Women activists, domestic workers, students, trade unions, lawyers, and progressive political organisations attended the rally.
The WDF president and one of the organizers, Ismat Raza Shahjahan, explained that the theme for this year’s event was restoring the economy, rehabilitating flood victims, and promoting peace, which is all critical to improving women’s lives.
Some glimpses from the Aurat Azadi Jalsa held yesterday in Islamabad.#AmanInsafZindagi pic.twitter.com/cT3rTKo9FD
— Aurat Azadi March Islamabad (@AuratAzadiMarch) March 6, 2023
As Shahjahan noted without providing any specifics, celebrating International Women’s Day is critical in Pakistan due to the presence of anti-feminist elements. She emphasised the necessity of universal free education and healthcare, while criticising privatisation and large subsidies for the wealthy as impediments to social progress.
Women activists waved placards and yelled slogans during the rally, demanding economic justice and gender equality. Gulzar Begum, the leader of the All Katchi Abadi Coalition, advocated for the legalisation of all shanty towns and villages where people sought sanctuary from conflict zones, feudal strongholds, and impoverished settlements.
Women were particularly vulnerable to the disastrous floods, according to Fatima Shehzad, general secretary of the Progressive Student Federation, because they were homeless, raising the risks of gender-based violence and sexual assault.
Farman Ali, the Awami Workers Party’s communications secretary, emphasised that it is not only the role of women to speak out against gender-based injustices, but men must also support them.