Pakistan: Women workers march on International Women's Day

By Bushra Khaliq, general secretary, Women Workers Help Line

Lahore -- March 8, 2010 -- More than 1500 women marched on the Mall, from Nasir Bagh to the Punjab Assembly, under the banner of Women Workers Help Line (WWHL) to celebrate the International Women's Day on March 8, 2010. Despite prevailing fear among Lahorites after an early morning suicidal attack in Model Town, women workers, including home-based workers, domestic workers, brick kiln and embellishment workers, made their way to observe the IWD. To show solidarity with victims of the morning blast, WWHL cancelled its  musical program and decided to celebrate the day in a simple manner.

Participants reached Nasir Bagh in small groups from different areas of Lahore. The rally started around 1 o'clock from Nasir Bagh and ended in front of Punjab Assembly at 3 o'clock. Led by WWHL leaders Bushra Khaliq, Azra Shad, Riffat Maqsood and others, the participants were chanting full-throated slogans against repressive anti-women and anti-worker laws. They held placards and banners inscribed with demands in favour of women workers. Among the participants there were a large number of young girls, who were singing revolutionary songs.

Participants wearing red dupattas (scarfs) around their necks marched in a disciplined manner behind the main banner, which read “Women struggle to continue until the end of all injustices and discrimination against women”. The rally had a true radical colour and mood as participants chanted anti-capitalist slogans all the way. The main slogans included “End economic injustice”, "No to violence against women“, ”Women want equal rights“, "Long live socialism”, “End discriminatory laws against women”, "Down with US imperialism“, "No to capitalism” and "No to extremism" .

At the end of the rally, WWHL leaders addressed the marchers. General secretary Bushra Khaliq said women workers are the most marginalised section of our society. They are facing a number of problems including social and economic repression in the shape of denial of their just rights by the state and society. She condemned the extremist forces and capitalists who are joining hands to crush women's rights. She also read out solidarity messages sent by various international organisations.

WWHL chairperson Azra Shad said women workers have dared to come out on the roads despite the prevailing fear. She said women workers are deprived of fundamental rights, adding that they should be given equal wages. She urged the Punjab government to legalise the katchi abadis [informal settlements] in Lahore. Spokesperson of the Labour Party Pakistan Farooq Tariq addressed the participants and urged the government to issue social security cards to home-based women workers. He said women workers should be given the minimum wage as Rs.15,000.

Zahida Sheikh of Awami Tehreek, Shazia Khan of Awami Jamhoori Forum, Riffat Maqsood of WWHL, Rozina Saif of the home-based Women Workers Union also spoke.