Ikram Junaidi

A large number of activists, including members of trade unions, gathered at F-9 Park on Sunday to take part in ‘Aurat Azadi Jalsa’ organised by the Women Democratic Front (WDF) and Aurat Azadi March to commemorate the 113th International Working Women Day.

In 2018, the participants gathered outside the National Press Club on the same day. Since then, they have held gatherings across the country, building solidarity networks with other resistance movements.

The WDF and Aurat Azadi March also released a communiqué that included resolutions for the democratisation of the country’s economy, land reforms, and the return of lands, mines, and water reserves occupied by the federal government back to the federating units.

During the event, the speakers underscored that Pakistan is on the brink of disaster on multiple fronts. The catastrophic floods last year left millions homeless and bereft of any hope for survival, as the affectees suffer from hunger, disease, and extreme poverty. Meanwhile, patriarchal violence continues unabated and has established deep roots in both institutional and societal forms.

WDF President Ismat Shahjahan declared, “The country is facing an imminent economic collapse due to capitalism, financial imperialism, and prolonged proxy wars. Nothing less than a progressive gender agenda would work, including a decolonised and demilitarised economy and state, a secular and democratic state and society, progressive taxation, and urban and agrarian land reforms. No society can progress without free education and healthcare for all; we demand an end to privatisation and huge subsidies for the elite.”

Ms Shahjahan condemned the rising oppression of Baloch women and demanded the release of all disappeared people, particularly Baloch women.

Homes have become sites of patriarchal violence and femicide due to patriarchy and the culture of violence, she said.

Gulzar Begum, leader of the All Katchi Abadi Alliance and Awami Workers Party, called for the regularisation of settlements, including katchi abadis (makeshift settlements) where people from war-torn areas, feudal heartlands and poverty-stricken villages take refuge.

She said, “Our katchi abadis are not only drowned in floods but also in the sea of inflation.”

She demanded a decrease in the prices of daily amenities, as well as urban land reforms to create housing space for the working class.

Anam Rathore, organiser of the gathering and co-founder of Climate Action Pakistan, highlighted, “The intertwined nature of economic and climate crises have left many of our people at the mercy of nature and an apathetic state. We need an eradication of the colonial model of river management, which cannot be done without addressing the gross negligence of the state.”

Farzana Bari, an AWP leader, said: “We must recognise the interconnected nature of these crises and the various forms of chronic oppression and exploitation faced by women. We need to continue organising together to build an egalitarian society.”

Apart from the “imperialist borrowing from international financial institutions”, excessive military spending was also criticised.

Pakeezah, a member of WDF, pointed out the rising transphobia against the transgender community, as a “sinister disinformation campaign looms large and puts them in grave danger”. “We need to continue building cross-movement solidarities in order to sow the seeds of pro-people feminist politics.”

An art performance, Dharti ka Dum Ghuttha Hai was also a part of the programme. “Our survival and evolution towards a humane socio-political system are intrinsically linked to our shared responsibility toward actualising climate justice built on socialist principles. For that, the creation of more leftist political art is the need of the hour,” said Areej Hussain, a member of Laal Hartaal.
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