For theatre artists and womens rights activist Sheema Kermani, there are several women related to the world of art who were Karachi’s unsung heroines and had contributed towards developing the culture in the city.
During the fourth session of the Karachi conference on Tuesday, Kermani discussed how women were celebrated in the Indus Valley civilisation – in the form of Mother Goddess or dancing girl of Moen jo Daro. She also reminisced about old Karachi where there was a certain openness, diversity and liberal environment. She claimed that times had changed and women were being treated unfairly.
Kermani mentioned women such as Atiya Fyzee, Madame Azurie, Parveen Qasim, Mehr Nigar Masroor, Meher Rizvi, Perveez Dastur, Amna Nazli, Zebunnisa Hamidullah, Sara Shagufta and Vilina Ghanyshyam.
Aslam Khwaja, a renowned journalist, talked about the role of women in Karachi during the anti-British struggle. The two women who stood out were – Jethi Tulsidas and Shanta Bukhari. Their bravery, strength and determination to keep on fighting even after being sent to jail because of their convictions, according to the speaker, should be an example for all women. Khwaja added that these women led their own movements and did not live in the shadow of their husbands.
Nayyara Rehman, another journalist and writer, read her paper on cities and their genders – ‘If Cities had Genders: A short history of feminism in Karachi’ and described the development of the feminist movement through different decades after Partition. The paper also looked at the effect of political and legislative developments of feminism in Karachi and Pakistan in the form of the Family Law Ordinance and Hudood Ordinance.
She talked about the transition of a woman from being brought up as a social companion for a man to having a more decisive identity as a human being. She also talked about taking this legacy forward and rethinking what it meant to be a woman in Karachi. The moderator of the session, Anis Haroon, ended the talk by sharing a personal experience from the 1980s, when General Ziaul Haq had put several restrictions on what women should wear. (Courtesy by Express Tribune)