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Society: Empowering the Past, Illuminating the Future: UN Women's #KoiJawazNahi Campaign in Pakistan

By Fizza Abbas


Attending the inaugural event of UN Women Pakistan's "16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence" campaign in Mohenjo Daro, Fizza A. Rabbani witnessed the campaign's impact in a nation grappling with rising incidents of violence against women, highlighted by the insensitive portrayal of such cases in media. The heart of the campaign, #KoiJawazNahi, delivers a resounding message: there's no excuse for violence against women, echoing the imperative need to address alarming statistics and raise awareness through impactful initiatives.


Backdrop of UN Women Moenjo Daro event
Photo: UN Women setting the stage to empower women via Waqas Rabbani (@JustAPakistaniGamer on YouTube)

Samantha Power once said, "Violence against women isn't cultural, it's criminal. Equality cannot come eventually, it's something we must fight for now."


Reflecting these values, UN Women Pakistan, with the support from the Government of Japan, launched the "16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence" campaign, which is gaining momentum with its #KoiJawazNahi initiative, starting from Moenjo Daro (also written as Moen-jo-Daro) and Quetta to Peshawar before finally ending in Islamabad. 


I recently had the privilege of attending the first event of the campaign in Mohenjo Daro, an ancient site brimming with history. It was amazing to see how this site, once again is the witness of history, as it housed the launch of such an important message, especially in a time when violence against women is on the rise in Pakistan.


You need to look no further than national media, where stories of women being brutally beaten, raped, or killed for simply existing are surfacing online every other day, shaking the very fabric of our nation. I could go into the details of the hows and whys, but that’s not the point of today’s discussion. Still, for the sake of clarity, I’d like to bring your attention to the TV show called Hadsa, a problematic TV show that recently made national news for its insensitive portrayal of the Lahore motorway rape case.  


As per the stats shared by UN Women, 24.5% of women undergo violence by their sexual intimate partners, with 18.3% becoming a victim of child marriages in Pakistan. In light of these alarming statistics, it becomes imperative to raise awareness through such impactful campaigns.


The Heart of the Campaign: #KoiJawazNahi

Ms Nabila Malik, Head of Communications and Partnership interacting with the audience
Photo: Ms Nabila Malik engaging in a Q&A session with the audience after a play via Waqas Rabbani (@JustAPakistaniGamer on YouTube)

The main theme of the campaign, #KoiJawazNahi communicates a powerful message: there's no excuse to be violent towards women. During her speech, Ms Nabila Malik, Head of Communications and Partnership, UN Women clearly said:

“Aurat kay khilaf tashadud namanzor hai. Or jo aurat per tashadud karta hai wo bahadur nahi hai, wo mard nahi hai. Humari civilization humein ye sikhati hai kay humara mard wo hai jo aurat ko tahaffuz de.” 

[Violence against women is unacceptable. Anyone who perpetrates violence against women is not brave, not a real man. Our civilization teaches us that a true man is the one who provides protection to women.]


She further added,

“Humare culture mein, humari civilization mein aurat ka bohat ehteraam hai magar wo ehteraam chaar divaari mein kahan chala jata hai, ye samajh nahi ata. Hum chahte hain kay hum ehad karen kay aurton kay khilaf is tashadud ko khatam karen.” 

[In our culture, in our civilization, there is great respect for women, but it is unclear where that respect disappears within the four walls. We want to pledge to end this violence against women.]


More Than Just Lights, Theatre and Exhibitions

This campaign is about more than just lighting up buildings in orange (though that's a stunning sight!). There is a street theater performance, and multiple exhibitions focused on the economic stability of women. 

Cast of the play organized by UN Women Pakistan
Photo: Curtains pulled up: Presenting to you the cast of the play: Salma Mir, Zainab binte Talha, Mahwish binte Qayyum, Daud Hashmi, and Babar Waheen (R to L), via Waqas Rabbani (@JustAPakistaniGamer on YouTube)

The play, "Be-rangi Se Narangi Tak Ka Safar," tells the inspiring story of a woman who became financially independent through sewing, passing on her skill to her color-blind daughter. 


As per the writer/director of the play, Ms Salma Mir:

“We're aiming for a collective social change through this play, and impart a message that women like men have the right to pursue their passions and gain financial independence.”

Writer and director of the play, Ms Salma Mir
Photo: Fizza Abbas(Left) in a conversation with the writer/director of the play, Ms Salma Mir (Right) via Waqas Rabbani (@JustAPakistaniGamer on YouTube)

While the play highlights the importance of women being financially independent, the exhibitions celebrate the real-life female heroes who live the message of the play in their day-to-day life. 


There were around 10-12 stalls at the Moen-Jo-Daro site, with women selling everything from Rilli (traditional quilts and bedspreads) and Qureshia-designed, handmade clothes to cost-effective sanitary napkins and delicious Sindhi food like sarson ka saag, chawal ki roti, Sindhu machli and tea.



Women entrepreneurs of Mohenjo Daro
Photo: Rabbani's riveting exchange with trailblazing women entrepreneurs, via Waqas Rabbani (@JustAPakistaniGamer on YouTube)

Powerful Support and Solidarity

Important figures like Nasir Aftab Pathan, DIG Larkana, and Abdul Waheed Shaikh, Commissioner Larkana, were there too, showing their support. It was inspiring to hear them talk about standing together against gender violence.


"As Commissioner of Larkana, I stand in solidarity with the UN Women's initiative at Mohenjo Daro. Embracing our heritage, we amplify the call to end gender-based violence, fostering a society where every individual thrives free from fear", said Waheed Shaikh, Commissioner Larkana.

Women police officers will key stakeholders
Photo: Hands up to represent Aurat kay khilaaf zulum ka #KoiJawazNahi #NoExcuse via Waqas Rabbani (@JustAPakistaniGamer on YouTube)

Talking about the spirit of the initiative, Ms. Sharmeela Rassool, the Country Representative of UN Women Pakistan stated:

"Investing to prevent violence against women is not just a theme; it's a call for tangible action. By choosing Mohenjo Daro as the launch site, we emphasize the resilience of women throughout history and the need to protect their rights in the present day."

A Personal Reflection

Being there, amidst the ancient ruins, watching these powerful messages unfold, was really moving. It's not every day you get to be part of something that's not just a campaign but a movement for change.


Let's keep an eye on this campaign as it moves across Pakistan, lighting up the night with hope and a promise for a better tomorrow. It's a reminder to all of us that when it comes to gender-based violence, the answer should always be #KoiJawazNahi.

 

About the author:

Fizza Abbas is a writer based in Karachi, Pakistan. She is fond of poetry and music. Her work has appeared in more than 90 journals, both online and in print. Her work has also been nominated for Best of The Net and shortlisted for Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition 2021. She has also authored two books, Ool Jalool (Fahmidan Publishing) and Bakho (Ethel Press). Aside from writing, she runs a YouTube channel where she interviews poets and zine editors. She tweets @fizzawrites.





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