ISLAMABAD: Hundreds of working women, political activists, students and intellectuals gathered on the occasion of International Women’s Day to give the Pakistani women’s movement a new lease on life by inaugurating the socialist-feminist organisation Women’s Democratic Front (WDF) at the National Press Club.
The inauguration brought together women delegates from Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Punjab to elect office bearers, and pass a manifesto and constitution envisaging a broad-based struggle against patriarchy, capitalism, national oppression, religious fascism and Pakistan’s authoritarian political system. The highlight of the day was Women’s Freedom March, which saw participants march from the press club to Nazimuddin Road.
Speaking on the occasion, newly elected WDF President Ismat Shahjahan and General Secretary Alya Bakhshal said that Pakistan is currently going through a reactionary period in which patriarchy had taken on a brutal character. They said that oppressed nations were resisting against state oppression for their survival, and the working classes had been forced into contract work or part-time jobs, or become migrant labourers or face unemployment.
The state ideology, structure, laws and development policies were all based on patriarchal principles in which women were given the status of second-class citizens. On one hand, Pakistan’s Constitution spoke of gender equality, while on the other, state policies and laws were based on gender inequality, discrimination and violence which keep women in a state of virtual slavery.
In this political and social environment, progressive women in Pakistan have been organising themselves and were now ready to take their struggle forward under the banner of the WDF.
A number of working-class organisations and parties including the Women’s Action Forum, Young Teachers Association, Home-Based Women Workers Union as well as the Awami Workers Party (AWP) and Awami Jamhuri Party were represented at the event, all vowing to work together with the WDF to take forward both the women’s movement as well as the cause of left-wing politics more generally.