This year the Aurat March is addressing anti encroachment as a major issue that is impacting the lives of the poor in Karachi. These measures are disguised under progress and development but it strikes at the core of informal relationships and the cultural thrum and drive of a city. The first attack is always on the poor and that is how the status quo is maintained.
Members from the organizing committee have been to Moach Goth, Ibrahim Hyderi, Rehri Goth, Khwajasira community, handing out flyers at festivals, postering all over the city as much as possible. Outreach is on ground and online – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which is why you will see Aurat March everywhere today!
Last year led to the formation of Aurat Haq, an independent collective of feminists who did three events to talk about #Metoo, the politics of naming and shaming etc.
The slogans last year gave rise to so much debate about labor and what kind of labor is recognized through Khana Khud Garam Kerlo and how rape culture is so prevalent through the poster Mera Jism Meri Marzi. And while social media has been a nasty place to dissect these posters, it has also helped in spreading the word. And now the March has spread to Hyderabad and Islamabad and we would hope other places in Pakistan also organize an Aurat March.
I would hope we have a stronger safe space for helping out people who became victims of intense bullying due to their posters after the March. We already had one organizer take a step towards that but I hope we can be more mindful this time. Other than that, I think the March delivered on representation and visibility of women in a public space and that was so beautiful to see.
Meaning of the March
The days are blurring into each other but honestly this is such a special and purposeful time. The solidarity and the company of women is truly a gift and the friendships that have formed out of the Aurat March sustain us throughout the rest of the year. One forgets that life in Karachi can be very lonely when you don’t have people to do things with and when you come together with women who think politically alike, the effect is magical. For me when I pushed myself to go into places I had never been to talk to people, I feel humbled that all my education can take a backseat if I cannot communicate effectively and respectfully. And for that reason I would return to organize again.
A Message for the Detractors of the March
Stop telling us what issues to focus on and what the march is about – all issues are important issues. Do your research, read our demands. I don’t understand when everyone around us (so called educated people) expect us to do the labor when all the information is accessible. Two slogans taken out of context informed their entire opinion of the Aurat March. Stop demanding our time and labor and educate yourselves. If you believe in questioning systemic injustices then you should participate in the Aurat March, simple as that.