International Women’s Day: Tribute to the resilient spirit

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Like other parts of the country, the International Women`s Day was marked in different parts of Khyber-Pakhtukhwa and tribal areas, highlighting the agonies and problems of women hit hard by man-made and natural disasters as well as ouitdated traditions. They sought protection of their fundamental rights, including particiption in the upcoming elections and an end to violence against women.

In Swat, women threatened to boycott the upcoming polls if their constitutional rights were not fulfilled within the stipulated time. “We will not cast a single vote if the government fails to ensure our rights,” Tabbasum Bashir, head of Khwendo Tollana, said at a function held to celebrated the day. She demanded justice for Tahira, an acid victim who was killed last year by her husband but the accused is still at large.

“The government must implement the Women Protection Act,” Jamila, a women rights activist from Madyan valley, said. She lamented that due to lack of proper implementation of the law, incidents of violence against women are on the rise I the country.

Women from all walks of life, gathered at the event. “Groups of illiterate women have gathered to stand up for their rights. They actively move from one place to another and meet women, identify their issues and raising voice against them,” Shagufta Hidayat, programme officer, communication of Shirkatgah, said.

Activities for IDPs

Several activities were organised for the internally-displaced women at Jalozai camp. An event on “A promise is a promise: time for action to end violence against women” was held to focus on boosting morale of the disaster-hit women.

Students performed skits, games and participated in debates at their makshift tent schools. The schools were decorated with colourful banners and posters, inscribed with slogans for women’s rights. They also organised a walk.

Stalls were set up with handicrafts such as handmade products, clothes, bed-sheets, blankets, bangles, beautifully engraved stone decoration pieces and other handicrafts.

“We want equal rights for both girls and boys but there are barriers such as poverty, distance and threats that prevent girls attending schools,” said a woman from Barra.

Sajda Bibi, 50, said, “I have come out from tent home to search for ration at food distribution points but they have stopped the distribution.” She added that there are rumours of suicide attacks at the camps for the last three days, which is why the distribution might have been closed.

The IDPs from Barra are on hunger strike over cuts in their food ration. Mata Khel, a protester, said “we have been on strike for the last 10 days and will continue until the quota of ration is increased.”

Speeches, skits

In Mohmand Agency of Fata, students from various schools and colleges, participated in debate competitions. They shed light on the rights and responsibilities of tribal women.

“Women must be equipped with knowledge and skills so that they could play an active role in the nation building,” said a participant. She added that only educated mothers can build civilised nations. Students also performed skits and national themes, paying tribute to the women and their achievements.

A three-day handicrafts exhibition was organised at Ghallanai. Tribal women set up stalls of handicrafts, showcasing their creativity.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2013.