This Year’s Aurat March Was About Women and Khuwaja Siras
Along with women, this year's aurat march also included having safe spaces, schools and the safety of Khuwaja siras all over Pakistan
Every year the Aurat March is held in towns all over Pakistan to voice opposition to issues that affect women and khawaja siras as well as the country as a whole. Aside from yearly themes, the Aurat March is known for its catchphrase, “mera jism meri marzi,” which is the pinnacle of human individuality.
Although the march made some requests of the state that have not been met, there has recently been some pro-women legislation, and there is no doubt that the march played a role in this. Most importantly, by sparking discussions on sociopolitical issues, the march has radicalized people, particularly young people. It has also brought attention to the desire and necessity of women and khuwaja siras to use public spaces, a right that has been denied to them.
Our social makeup has changed throughout time as a result of socioeconomic considerations. Family arrangements, gender roles, and young people’s aspirations have all altered. The dating culture has become more widely known. In the past ten years, meeting new people and starting relationships have multiplied significantly, in large part thanks to dating apps. Self-will unions have grown in number, including court unions. The issue between a person’s right to freedom of movement and the right to privacy is at the heart of the debate. Tens of thousands of women depart their homes each day for work, sometimes even for non-job-related reasons, so they are gradually winning the war.
In addition, the fact that thousands of women apply to colleges and universities even if only a small number of them are approved speaks volumes about the increased need for university education among women. The results of the 2017 census show that this demand exists.
Around three young people a day come to visit us, and they all have a desire for a place where they may walk without feeling threatened or harassed. The only place like this in Karachi is Seaview, which the property investment lobby is eager to take over. Weekly markets, parks, and zoos all demonstrate that there are places where people of all genders can coexist without being harassed. A food street along Burns Lane attracted families, young men and women closer together without overt symptoms of discrimination.
The role of architect and developer must step in and take care of the requirements of women by creating safe, pedestrian-friendly environments. Where such places have been established, sadly, the local government has demolished them because it failed to preserve them.
How can planners and architects help build a city that is gender-equitable? Toilets in all public areas must be clean, have a consistent water supply, and be private. For ease of access, it’s crucial to designate separate restrooms for women and khawaja siras.
The second is the participation of women and khawaja siras through design-based components in the formal economy. It is essential to have a crèche in any workplace where kids can be watched, as well as a well-lit, well-ventilated workspace (particularly in industries), with clean areas for eating. Women should be permitted to establish booths in pedestrianised zones where they can do commerce. These areas have to be well-lit and accessible till after dark. This will change gender relations and practically integrate women and khawaja siras into the city, particularly it’s street economy.
A poll of what college and high school women in a katchi abadi wished to have in a playground in their neighbourhood, conducted by architecture students at Dawood University, revealed that a significant change is occurring among the younger generation. They desired a cricket and table tennis area, exercise equipment, a performance area, and an outdoor library. These are the new aspirations of a younger crowd of katchi abadi residents, and their wealthier pakki abadi neighbours share them. Over the years, Aurat March has reflected and supported these demands in its manifestos and catchphrases.
In order to develop a women-friendly culture, it is crucial that everyone in the architecture and planning industry, especially women professionals, grasp these requirements.
This necessitates a considerable shift in the way architects and planners are educated, as well as the education of instructors, which calls for a significant research and extension effort.
According to our understanding, this goal can be accomplished if the city’s aim is a pedestrian- and commuter-friendly metropolis rather than a “world-class city,” which is the existing vision.
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