"We didn't dance, but we talked and it worked in getting the message across that the people of Pakistan are RISING." Pardon. These emotions were unitedly shared amongst the energetic and enthusiastic campaigners of the "One Billion Rising" at the Air University, Islamabad.
While much is going the wrong-way, it's an absolute satisfaction to know that Pakistan is part of this global campaign for ending violence against women. This call for One Billion Rising campaign was given by the well-known feminist activist, playwright and actor Eve Ensler. It aimed to mobilize a public gathering of one billion people on the streets across the world on 14th February, 2013, to sing, dance and protest, to end violence against women and girls â€” once and for all.
To be frank, no one sees "this once and for all" ending in the near future, yet why stop dreaming about such a reality?
Pakistan sadly is home to widespread violence against women. Issues such as "honor" killings (locally known as karo kari), is pervasive in Balochistan, southern Punjab and interior Sindh provinces.
If it's not the so-called "honor" striking the Pakistani women down, than it's matters of religious fundamentalism. Minority persecution is a daily happening across the country. In more recent times, women hailing from minorities have been the most vulnerable to violence. Ironically, their Muslim sisters are not enjoying any respite, because in the name of Allah they are deprived of their inheritance rights, choice of spouse for marriages, their say in family planning and so on.
The campaign OBR Pakistan became possible through the joint-efforts of the vibrant civil societies including Amal Development Network, Aurat Foundation, Rozan and Women Organization for Rights and Democracy (Word).
The campaign and it's V-Day event were conducted in a very wisely creative manner. The show-stoppers have been our vibrant Pakistani youth.
Also when I say young people, it's both young men and women having the passion, commitment and grit to showcase the OBR's culmination. Times are indeed changing. Many in Pakistan can recall those days when women rights activism was implemented with "zero-tolerance" for men aboard in development planning and execution. The exclusion of men from decades of campaigning did not result in being as powerful as OBR, Pakistan campaign has become.
The V-Day event was in collaboration with the Air University, Islamabad whose staffers and students worked tirelessly along with the civil society organizations in demanding an end to violence against women (VAW) issues on the occasion.
The collaboration with educational institutes such as high-schools, professional colleges, universities and even primary schools has accumulated in forwarding the message as a "multiplier effect" across the country.
In all this frenzy, let's ponder on a serious note. A very important message related to unity against all forms of violence against women and girl-child is resonating in the air.
For now, humanitarian justice is served on a platter with the chants of young men and women.
They are rising.
However. My question remains the same.
Are you rising too?