September 30, 2023

By Maryam Missal


“What is to be feared at this point in time is the creeping Talibanization into state affairs, and how the State is actually patronizing it, just as it is happening in Waziristan and the newly merged districts.”

Senior journalist Munizae Jahangir spoke about this rising militancy and terrorism in a women-led conference recently. She was part of the panel organized by the Progressive Women network.

She said, “Those who believe that the flames of terrorism will be confined to the newly merged districts of KP have got it wrong,” said Jahangir. “The flames have touched those who live in cities too; it has now spread.”

The conference mainly addressed women’s role in left politics, law and the role of women in the media. The conference saw major participation from women labour and activists. It was moderated by Laiba Zainab.

The conference discussed women’s participation in left politics and their role in mobilizing the middle and lower classes to actively engage in social and political narratives. Speaking on the politics of the left included Ismat Shahjahan, Dr Alia Haider and Fayeza Rafaqat.

Militancy & Terrorism

Voicepk spoke to other women participants who had come to the conference including Dr Alia Haider who shared her experience as an on-ground activist who often engages with women with low wages and the disconnect they feel with the ongoing wave of (urban) feminism.

“When we talk about the IDPs, we forget that we ourselves have been part of such proxy wars and the impact is always on the marginalized sections of society,” she said.  “Till we don’t stop calling Taliban freedom fighters, and glorifying them, religious fascism will not stop. Places like Baluchstan will never heal from these incidents and there will continue to be bloodshed in places like Balochistan.” Alia was referring to the blast that killed over 60 people in Mastung.

While speaking to, Dr Alia Haider shared, that there are very few spaces where women get to speak especially those women who have worked on the ground tirelessly, it is a win in itself to have a space for us where we can share our experiences.

The conference further included a panel conversation on Women in Media and the challenges they encounter while navigating through patriarchal hierarchies of media.

Speaking to Jalila Haider spoke about the militancy issue in Balochistan and said that it had a lot to do with how the Afghanistan issue was being handled.
“In order to make Afghanistan our fifth province, we have literally caused so much bloodshed in each of our own provinces,” said Jalila Haider. “We saw the fire blazing in our neighbour’s backyard, but now it’s caught on in our own.”

Decision-Making Power
While concluding the panel Absa Komal shared her thoughts that when a woman comes into a decision-making position in media she should ensure space for other women as well and break the chains of patriarchy.

Speaking to Laiba Zainab said that she believes that digital media has expanded space for women, offering them more opportunities than in the past. Yet the struggle has not ended.

Ismat Shahjahan, sharing her thoughts on the matter, mentioned that female factory and domestic labourers do not feel connected with modern feminism in Pakistan. She stated, ‘In an attempt to reposition women in the left, we have distanced ourselves from certain organizations, which are only vocal for women’s rights one day a year.’

Absa Komal shared insight on how women in media were restricted to certain beats and they limited to a certain calibre of reporting. According to her, despite the liberal narratives of the news channels, the misogyny that infiltrated media houses had restricted women’s voices.

Munizae Jahangir while sharing her experience as a media worker said that media has come a long way, it has grown tolerant towards women’s issues and a certain standard of sensitization towards women’s issues is seen in media but there is a lot more left to achieve. She believes that as a comparison from 20 years ago, the struggles of women in media have changed but they still exist.

Jahangir brought it to light that currently there were no female reporters covering the Prime Minister or President House. This, she added, shows the disparity between the genders prevails.

The conference was attended by participants from all over Pakistan and many were given the opportunity to speak up about their day-to-day struggles in operating as women or marginalized members of society.

One of the participants and speaker at the conference was Khushboo who travelled from a village in Sindh. Speaking to Voicepk.Khushboo shared that conferences of such nature give a boost of confidence to women coming from rural areas.


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