Impact of a first female CM on the feminist movement  | ThinkEd

Impact of a first female CM on the feminist movement 

1. New female CM means progression?

Not that long ago, Maryam Nawaz Sharif made and broke history. She got elected as Pakistan’s first woman chief minister. Don’t you think that’s a little “off-brand” for a country which has notoriously made a name for being oppressive? Over time the argument over whether or not the term feminism has a positive connotation has only become more heated. 

2. Recent events

After mediating the safe escort of a woman who was being accused of blasphemy by a mob in Lahore a Pakistani police officer is being praised as a hero. The gathering mistook the woman’s Arabic calligraphy-adorned dress for passages from the Quran during her wear. Many recognise the empowerment of a woman as an act against religion. Claiming that an empowered woman is a puppet on the string of Western culture and breeds nothing but obscenity.  

After years of being misunderstood and blown out of proportion, do you ever feel like Pakistan and particularly Pakistani men have slowly started accepting the fact that women too can stand shoulder to shoulder with them? This incident shed a lot of light on the fact that the perception of a woman and her acts have a lot to do with the literacy locality. Yes, the locals might have attacked her like vultures, but she was not only rescued by a brave female officer but was also backed by many sane men all over Pakistan. 

3. Year of change?

When Suriya Bibi was a candidate earlier this year for a seat in the provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkwa she had to overcome more than just her gender. She had to combat the fact that she was from a minority sect in the isolated Chitral district of Pakistan. 

At the beginning of February Bibi created history by being the first female from the Chitral district to win an assembly seat in a direct election as opposed to assuming a seat designated for women as is customary in the area. With a resounding majority, she not only won the PK-1 seat in Chitral but also rose to the rank of deputy speaker in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly.  

Bibi faced challenges navigating and defying conventional norms to carve out her place in male-dominated politics in Pakistan where women’s involvement in governance is often restricted. At the beginning of February Bibi created history by being the first female from the Chitral district to win an assembly seat in a direct election as opposed to assuming a seat designated for women as is customary in the area. She not only won with a resounding majority in the PK-1 constituency in Chitral, but she also rose to the rank of deputy speaker in the assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. 

Bibi is one of the select few female lawmakers who were able to gain their seats through open competition rather than through a family history of male political influence.

Also Read: Historic Win Shatters Stereotypes, Empowers Women in Pakistani Politics

The fact remains: 

Pakistan has one of the lowest rates of female labour force participation in the world with only 22% of women aged 15 and older employed according to the World Bank. Furthermore, there are notable salary differences between men and women for equivalent work women are paid 34% less on average.  

The Aurat March is an emblem of hope and resiliency as Pakistan moves closer to gender equality. It dispels stereotypes, gives voice to the voiceless and pushes for structural reform. Even though the march encountered resistance from conservative factions and deeply ingrained patriarchal customs it serves as an example of the efficacy of group efforts and unity in propelling societal transformation. 

4. First Feminist movement in Pakistan

Great momentum was gained in the 1980s with the emergence of the first feminist movement the Women’s Action Forum. This movement came together as a reaction to the Hudood Ordinances laws passed in 1979 that unfairly disfavored non-Muslim women when it came to testifying as witnesses in rape or gang rape cases. In protest of the discriminatory Hudood Ordinances and other laws that disadvantaged women the Women’s Action Forum called a rally on The Mall Road in Lahore my hometown. The Law of Evidence required a raped woman to present four witnesses to prove the crime. Tear gas was frequently used to break up crowds and make arrests even though the protest was peaceful.  

The Women’s Action Forum is and has always been a fierce opponent of injustice in all its manifestations especially when it comes to the treatment of minorities and women. The laws were then changed in 2006 doing away with the need for four witnesses.! 

Moving forward: 

Under the name Alliance Against Sexual Harassment (AASHA) Pakistan’s second major feminist movement was born in 2000 to eradicate workplace sexual harassment. The World March of Women member Bushra Khaliq led the movement which included participation from political parties parliamentarians grassroots women and the media. Fouzia Saeed an activist and gender expert served as the movement’s director. Their combined efforts resulted in the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act being successfully passed in 2010.  

2018 saw the rise in popularity of the grassroots initiative known as the Aurat March or Women’s March which aims to eradicate patriarchy. A more inclusive and intergenerational approach is taken by the Aurat March which is led by young feminists. They also host year-round events like press releases small demonstrations and artistic endeavors. Each year on March 8th they organize the Aurat March.


As they exercise their constitutional rights to assembly and free speech young feminists face threats of murder rape and acid attacks. Raising a slogan has disturbed and challenged Pakistan’s prevailing patriarchal mentality. Inherently biased against women are the social structure norms and practices. 

Women face resistance in the streets, workplaces and homes and the government’s capacity to protect them is severely restricted. We nevertheless continue to march through the streets in support of various causes including International Women’s Struggle Day. Many young girls have experienced feelings of insecurity as a result of online harassment via comments and private messages. As a result, some people who are personally struggling with fear and insecurity have decided not to publicly show their participation or have ignored such remarks. Without enough investigation, the strategies used by the media and YouTubers have damaged the cause of women and girls.  

Manipulated pictures of women and girls taking part in marches and demonstrations have appeared in print and electronic media. With the help of technology, social media platforms have a big impact on the sociology and psychology of communication. Girls and women are still not allowed to have bodily autonomy in society as the rise of populism has highlighted. Young feminists have taken to challenging control over women’s bodies with the bold declaration mera jism meri marzi (my body my choice), especially about issues like lack of reproductive choice and marital rape. 

Some people have embraced this slogan while others have rejected it. In the Asia-Pacific area, the room for dissent is rapidly decreasing and young feminist movements and Pakistani civic spaces are particularly vulnerable. Marchers now face more life-threatening situations due to cyberbullying, sexual misconduct in public places and social stigma which is exacerbated by right-wing and fundamentalist groups as well as the lack of secularism. 

5. It’s time for a change!

The state and communities must work quickly to address these new issues to identify solutions, acknowledge women as equal citizens, create pro-women laws and guarantee that women and girls have access to civic spaces. Hundreds of young girls must be empowered and mobilized to build movements under the auspices of the World March of Women Pakistan. We will continue to push for structural changes and women’s rights via our everyday activism. Thus, we resist to live, we march to transform continues to be our catchphrase.

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