By Ejaz Ahmed
“Generally, my brothers tend to washing their clothes, especially when I’m not home but I feel ashamed of myself whenever I see them doing that, and sometimes I think that may be I’m not discharging my duties truthfully,” said Nusrat Fatima when asked by ChitralToday to react to last year’s famous placard slogan, Tan Khashtaran Tan Zapan Tan Nigur.
The placard slogan caused an uproar among Chitrali social media users. The outspoken Nusrat, belonging to Booni, is one of the few Chitrali women who use Twitter. She thinks that perhaps it was the local traditions which have molded the minds that ‘boys’ were too good to wash their own clothing.
“I may have learned all these from my mom,” she adds, but believes the mindset now must change.
Karima Khan, a foreign qualified who comes from Lower Chitral, supports the idea of a Chitral version of Aurat March as the march, according to her, aims at empowering woman economically.
She suggests: “There should be a march also in Chitral by local women.”
Karima, currently working with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) as Programme Associate, said: “Article 38 of the Constitution ensures promotion of social and economic well-being of all people regardless of their caste, creed and gender.” Aurat March demands the full implementation of this article.
Like in other parts of the world, March 8 every year is observed in Pakistan as the International Women’s Day set by the United Nations to spread awareness in the member countries about women rights. The world has been celebrating this day since 1995 which was adopted in Beijing. The UN has set this year’s theme as “I’m Generation Equality; Realizing Women’s Rights.”
In Pakistan, civil society organizations have regularly been celebrating the day but in 2018 the Aurat March was added to its activities which have been taken hardly in the country. For the march, the participants, mostly led by women activists, take to the public places, main urban arteries and press clubs in big cities. Some of the slogans marked on the placards and banners used by the participants have gone wrong and fetched reaction from various elements. One of the slogans found in the demonstrations last year was what caught the eyes of Khowar speaking community on social media, “Tan Khashtaranwa Tan Zapan Tan Nigur”, do wash your crockeries and clothing on your own.
Karima Khan said her proposed march will highlight the issues relating to domestic violence, injustice in inheritance share and women suicides in the valley.
“No honorable women will approach a police station reporting domestic violence. This is the discourse we have learned and projected in our locality,” she told ChitralToday.
In Chitral, she added, no parent would like to see her female family member travel alone to Peshawar which means the environment is not safe for women.
“Women are sold out for money in marriage to people as old as of their fathers’ age,” she points out. The march would challenge the evils happening to Chitrali women and would create awareness about the plight of women, she adds.
Rashida, working with a private bank in Swat belonging to Upper Chitral, finds no problem with the slogan of Tan Zapan Tan Nigur.
“The problem is not with washing my brothers’ dresses, it turns out to be a problem when this cleaning job becomes my core responsibility.”
She says they (brothers) should bother to turn the button on if they are sitting idly or doing no important chore. Rashida pins hopes on education to change the mindset gradually.
Taqdira Khan, a PTI worker hailing from Lower Chitral, appeals to Chitrali parents to give the same amount of devotion to girls’ marriage as being given to bringing in a bride.
“Carelessness on the part of parents is evidently witnessed in marriages, especially with those coming from other’ districts,” she says and adds that no inquiry about such people was ever considered necessary.
She thinks that the Aural March could be a need of those woman living in the major cities but not of Chitrali women, as the Chitrali women, according to her, were enjoying more respectable and dignified environment.
She said Chitrali women could be having less facilities but enjoyed relatively free environs while in the valley.
Mehbooba Jan from Upper Chitral, currently living in one of the European countries on scholarship, objects to the way the Aurat March is held but endorses its message. She said last year she went to join the Aurat March but returned home after observing inappropriate slogans the participants resorted to chant against paternal being of Pakistani society.
Mehbooba was of the view that women should not claim equality with men as she thinks both were different with different characteristics and tendencies.
“I’m a feminist and a degree holder in gender education and know the subject better,” she said and added that the march should focus on social issues the Pakistani woman was facing. However, she admitted that the march had brought the hidden, hardly discussed and lesser-known issues to the fore.
She sought a behavioral change in society objecting to the attitude towards judging the females’ loyalty.
Mehbooba suggested the same punishment for men over betrayal in the marital life which has been peculiar to women referring to ‘honor killing’.
However, Zahida Shah Sangeen, another political and social activist from Lower Chitral who has worked with International NGOs did not endorse the slogan and termed it derogatory.
She criticized the sentence and those who approve it, and suggested to rewrite the slogan with “Let’s do our chores together” instead. She suggested that both women and men in their capacities must create a mutual understanding to make the environment conducive and care for each other.
Zahida was of the view that neither an employed woman nor a man should be expected to do the both (domestic and professional) responsibilities at the same time. Otherwise, she said the responsibilities could be delegated to each other in accordance with the family setting.
Published in ChitralToday on March 7, 2020.