Panel discussion at UoK demands end to gender discrimination

A panel discussion was organized by teachers under the banner “Tu apnay aanchal say aik parcham bana layti to accha tha” at the History Department of Karachi University (UoK) with respect to women’s day to end the gender discrimination.

 The title of the program was Aurat, Masail aur Huqooq. The panel consisted of Sheema Kirmani, Dr Hina Khan In-Charge History Department, Dr Erum Muzzafar In-Charge Pakistan Study Centre, Dr Sadaf Ahmed Director, Centre of Health and Wellbeing, and Dr Zakia Rani from the Urdu Department. The discussion centred around the problems women face in Pakistani society based on their gender.

At the beginning of the program Sheema Kirmani spoke about the different aspects in which women are repressed by a patriarchal society. She emphasized on the intersectional understanding of this repression. A daily wage worker, a domestic help, a forcibly converted Hindu girl, for instance, are more repressed in Pakistani patriarchal society. She argued that a gendered analysis of class, religion and other differences provides a nuanced understanding of women’s problems.

Dr Hina Khan spoke on the importance of women’s resistance movements in Pakistan’s history. She emphasized how women who participated in the struggle for independence had to demand equal social and political space from their male fellows/counterparts after partition. She also spoke on the hardships women had to face in Zia’s dictatorship, and how women’s resistance in the form of Women Action Forum (WAF) arose as a force against this repression.

Speaking on the relationship of environment and women issues, Dr Erum Muzzafar drew a parallel between the capitalist exploitation of land and the capitalist exploitation of women. She argued that the capitalist system has on the one hand commodified the land. In the name of development land is exploited and is being continuously robbed of its natural habitat. Likewise, a woman is also made a commodity, her own nature has been repressed for the benefit of the system.

Dr Sadaf Ahmed spoke on the challenges of basic health women face in our society. From maternity care to postpartum depression her struggles are enormous and oftentimes unnoticed. Due to diverse health issues women are under constant neurophysiological stress, hence they are unable to live a healthy life. A better society must understand these challenges and work towards the physically and mentally healthy individual.

Dr Zakia Rani emphasized on the role of women writers in Urdu literature. She stressed that though women have been depicted by male writers, and in a positive way, but male writers lack the complexity which female voice has. A female voice comes from a privileged perspective of women’s lived experiences.

She also said that there had been double standards for women and men in Urdu literature. What was permissible for a male writer was considered abominable for a woman writer. Women writers had to go through a long struggle against these forces. Some of the writers who broke these walls were Quratulain Haider, Ismat Chughtai, Ada Jaffery, Kishwar Naheed, Fahima Riaz among others. Tanveer Anjum and Dr Uzma Farman also spoke on the struggles of women writers and poets in Urdu literature.

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By Arshad Yousafzai

Arshad Yousafzai is a Karachi-based journalist covering Education and Human Rights. He can be reached on Twitter @Arshadyousafzay

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