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Int’l Women’s Day and Oppressed Palestinian Women!


Dr Lubna Zaheer

International Women’s Day is celebrated worldwide on March 8 with the sole purpose of raising voices for women’s rights, freedom and independence. The world should be made aware that women are human beings like men, so they should be given equal rights to men. It is customary that various ceremonies are held on this day. On this day, women and men, who are championing their rights, come together to demand that more rights and freedom be given to women and that atrocities against them should be stopped.

International Women’s Day is also celebrated with great enthusiasm in Pakistan with colourful ceremonies, conferences, seminars, talks, debates, walks etc. Of course, many problems of Pakistani women are yet to be solved. The life of rural women is more difficult than that of urban women. For example, there is a severe lack of education and health facilities for women in villages. Whether in cities or villages, women are harassed, subjected to violence, and have limited employment opportunities.

Despite these facts, the Pakistani woman does not face the worst conditions that are portrayed in the West. Western countries feel that women in Pakistan have no rights and freedom at all, but they should know a woman like Benazir Bhutto was elected Prime Minister twice and a good number of women are present in the national and provincial assemblies. At present, Maryam Nawaz Sharif is the Chief Minister of the largest province i.e. Punjab. Apart from the present age, in the 60s, Ms Fatima Jinnah, the sister of founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was active in politics. During that time, she challenged a military dictator and contested elections against him.


Before 1947, Muslim women of the subcontinent regularly contributed to the Quaid-i-Azam’s freedom struggle. The leader’s message was delivered door to door. She went to jails and faced the British government. In today’s Pakistan, we see women active in every field including journalism, economy and business. To be honest, women have left men far behind in many fields and are seen moving forward and making progress.

Like every year this time too, I had the opportunity to attend a few functions on March 8. I repeated the same words that we repeat every year. It means that we don’t want to teach the women’s rights from the West. Fourteen hundred years ago, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) gave us all the rights that a woman needs. And that Hazrat Khadijah (RA) was a successful business woman even in that era. And even during that time, the Companions used to correct Hadith from Aisha. Even in that era, the Sahabia (female Muslims who have seen Prophet (SAW) used to fight wars and battles. An event that I attended at Jamia Umm Kitab on the invitation of Ms Khanum Tayyaba Naqvi was about the Palestinian woman. I was very happy to go to this event to see that someone at least has remembered the women of Palestine.

In this event, I asked why the so-called civilized world, which advocates human rights, is silent on the atrocities in Palestine. Why don’t international feminist organisations raise their voices against the bombing of Palestinian women? Currently, women and children are the most affected in Gaza as women are getting martyred and hurt. Food and medicine deliveries are halted. Their houses have been destroyed.

The powerful countries of the world are either silent or supporting Israel. According to the United Nations’ data, there are 52,000 pregnant women who have no access to medicines and treatment facilities. Nearly 182 women go through childbirth every day without anesthesia and operations. One can imagine the height of sufferings the Palestinian women going through. Their woes aren’t limited to pregnant women as they are also facing difficulties regarding their specific problems. They are not provided with any sanitary products for their periods. All this is happening at times when we are much vocal about feminism.

This is the time when there are loud speeches in favour of women and their rights. But there is no one to speak up for the Palestinian woman. The tragic episode is silence on part of around 50 Muslim countries. The Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) is also seen confined to only verbal condemnations. In such a situation, the women of Palestine could only cry to Allah Almighty.

Even in Pakistan, we rarely remembered the Palestinian women on International Women’s Day. While mentioning our rights, we forgot to raise our voice for the women, who have been surrounded by difficulties and sufferings for the last five months. Despite the passage of five months, there has been no reduction in the atrocities of Israel.

I wish that international human rights organisations and leading feminist organisations raise their voices in favour of oppressed Palestinians and against the atrocities on women. I also wish the liberal women of our country, who usually hold colorful marches, say something for the oppressed women of Palestine.

Dr Lubna Zaheer

— The author is an academician and political analyst

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Lahore Mirror