‘Hillary’s rise to fame as a presidential candidate was paved by the struggle of many women before her’ argues Dr Masuma Hasan.
Hillary Clinton lost the US presidential election on 8 November against the prediction of so many experienced political pundits. She said all the right things and raised all the right issues during her campaign: unity in diversity, inclusiveness for all races and communities, building bridges instead of walls, health care and social security, equal opportunities for women, tolerance for all faiths, especially for the endangered Muslim community, reaching out for the marginalized and the poor, protection for women’s reproductive rights and the rights of gay and lesbian groups. Donald Trump, her adversary, scandalized with his crude references to women, his attacks on Muslims whom he promised to debar from entering the United States, on Mexicans to prevent whose entry he would build a wall along the Mexico-US border, calling them rapists, his determination to dismantle Barack Obama’s health care scheme, cut taxes for the rich, which would lead to more investment and jobs, protect ownership of weapons, and thereby make America great again.
Trump became the subject of disgust as one woman after another came forward to accuse him of sexual assault. He had no experience whatever of public office or governance, he had never been a member of either house of Congress. He surprised his fellow Americans by lack of knowledge of world affairs, and by praising Vladimir Putin. On the campaign trail his vocabulary was so limited that he could not string three consecutive sentences coherently. Continue reading
It was a landmark decision which brought both joy and tears of emotion to the eyes of those who have long struggled for women’s rights in Pakistan. In a short order, on 2 June 2015, a full bench of the Election Commission of Pakistan declared null and void the by-election held in PK 95, Lower Dir II, on grounds of the disenfranchisement of women in that constituency. A re-polling will take place. It seems forever now that women have been barred from casting their votes in some parts of Pakistan. Over the years, women have not only participated defiantly and vibrantly in elections at all levels, they have also reached the highest level of representation in the houses of parliament both on reserved seats and general seats. But some areas have kept their women indoors on every election day.
It has been customary for political parties operating in these areas to arrive at prior agreements among themselves that women would not be allowed to cast their votes. This includes conservative and religious parties as well as the so-called ‘secular’ parties. It seems that custom and patriarchical tyranny has always prevailed over the agendas of ‘progressive’ parties. The agreements are verbal but have often been reduced to writing as they were in this case. Aurat Foundation has worked for the participation of women in politics at all levels. It has facilitated the participation of women in local, provincial and national elections by getting their national identity cards made Continue reading
As a child Akbar (1542-1605) was deprived of the love and care of his parents and was brought up by nurses in the not too friendly homes of his uncles in Kandahar and Kabul. His father, Humayun, the favourite son of the Mughal emperor Babar and his mother, Hamida Banu Begum, abandoned him and his little sister Bakhshi Banu to his uncles, when he was only one year old. They ran from pillar to post in pitiful conditions as Humayun tried to win back the kingdom he had lost to Sher Shah Suri (1486-1545) and to his own brothers. Humayun captured and lost Kabul more than once and Akbar remained a hostage and prisoner with his uncle, Kamran Mirza, until his father decisively won Kabul in 1550. He had had a brief re-union with his parents in 1545.
Akbar’s parentless childhood should have left many scars on his personality. But he grew up to become a fierce and fearless warrior, a passionate hunter, a trainer of elephants and cheetahs, a fine polo player, a remarkable administrator, a conciliator of different interests, a lover of books and music, a man of many talents and, above all, a forgiver. He could get towers built with the skulls of those he vanquished and get rebels trampled under the feet of elephants but he often reinstated those who rebelled against him if they sought forgiveness. Continue reading
Pakistan is a country where – no matter how corrupt they are – sportsmen are mostly considered to be stars and heroes. But, as in the case of Mumtaz Qadri, there are some instances where murderers have also become heroes. On the other hand, our nation’s dilemma is that it disregards and rebukes those who really deserve appreciation. For example, such tendencies are evidenced in the fact that the majority of Pakistanis do not really remember our only Nobel laureate: the late Abdus Salam. Similarly, the same proclivities can be observed in the case of Malala Yousafzai who has become a worldwide symbol of freedom, democracy, education and women’s rights: she is being praised everywhere for her courage and determination.
Equally, in rival India, Malala is an icon and will be awarded the prestigious Basavashree Award. She has also won the Sakharov Prize and the list of accolades bestowed upon her is too elaborate to comprehensively expand upon in this post. But it is rather lamentable that large swathes of her own country’s population are criticizing, opposing and even abusing her. Continue reading
On 8 March 2013, the Provincial Assembly of Sindh unanimously passed a Bill against domestic violence which subsequently became an Act. On 30 March 2013, Aurat Foundation held a meeting of all stakeholders and those who had contributed towards the passage of this Bill. Poet Fazil Jamili dedicated this poem on this occasion to the women of Pakistan.
Time is the best court of justice
and in this court
I confess my crime today
we have walked together
in the long journey of life
you held me dearer than life
and I kept killing you
from Adam down to this day
all the blood that I have spilt Continue reading
It was a great day for Aurat Foundation. Not only because 8 March was International Women’s Day but also because the Sindh Assembly unanimously passed long-awaited legislation against domestic violence. In its dying days, the Assembly adopted the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill 2013. This much needed legislation, defines domestic violence as:
- Gender related, physical, emotional, verbal, psychological abuse
- Pattern of degrading or humiliating conduct
- Insult, ridicule, threat to cause physical pain, malicious prosecution and threat of violence
- Obsessive possessiveness or jealousy undermining the privacy, liberty, integrity and security of the victim
- Baseless accusations
- Citing barrenness of a spouse for the purpose of marrying again
- Willful or negligent abandonment of the aggrieved person Continue reading
A Consultative Workshop on Mainstreaming Rights of Widows and Single Women in Public Policy was organised and hosted in Islamabad by Aurat Foundation Pakistan on 23-24 May 2012. Aurat Foundation is a member of the South Asian Network for Widows’ Empowerment in Development (SANWED). Born out of concern for the plight of widows in South Asia, SANWED was established in 2003 and is based in Kathmandu. Its vision is a world in which all widows enjoy their full human rights and live with dignity. It owes much of its recognition to the efforts of Lily Thapa, founder of Women for Human Rights (WHR) in Nepal and the determination of Margaret Owen, Director of Widows for Peace Through Democracy (WPD) who is SANWED’s international focal person.
I attended SANWED’s meetings on behalf of Aurat Foundation in Chennai in 2005, Kathmandu in 2010 and the conference launching International Widows’ Day on 23 June 2006, with Cherie Blair in the chair, in London. For different reasons and to different degrees, widows are marginalised in South Asian societies. In Hindu communities, they suffer from the worst forms of discrimination, which led Lily Thapa to found SANWED, after she lost her husband many years ago. Continue reading
Aurat Foundation Pakistan is a member of the South Asian Network for Women’s Empowerment in Development (Sanwed) and I have had the privilege of representing Aurat Foundation at Sanwed’s inaugural meeting in Chennai in December 2005, at the Conference in Kathmandu in June 2010 and at the International Windows Day Conference held in London on 23 June 2006. These gatherings were highly rewarding. They enabled me to meet colleagues and partners, exchange views, and learn about new ideas, projects and initiatives.
Therefore, I was looking forward to this Sanwed workshop which has been organised by Women for Human Rights (Single Women Group) in Kathmandu but, unfortunately, am unable to attend it. However, I should like to put forward my views on the subject of ameliorating the plight of widows, which is our common concern, with respect to Pakistan.
Until the results of Pakistan’s Census of 2011 become available, we have to rely on statistics about widows on the Census of 1998 which I have quoted in the paper I read in the Conference in Kathmandu in June 2010. However, since the population of Pakistan has increased greatly since the last Census, given the pattern population growth, the number of widows must have also risen in the same proportion. Continue reading