Aurat Publication & Information Service Foundation
National Women’s Day celebrated, Lahore, Karachi & Islamabad

Lahore, Karachi & Islamabad

National Women’s Day celebrated

Aurat Foundation celebrated National Women’s Day on 12 February 2016 at its regional offices, Lahore and Karachi, and Head Office at Islamabad, and paid tribute to Late Ms. Shehla Zia, Co-founder Aurat Foundation and member Women Action Forum for her struggle and contributions towards legal protection of women's rights in Pakistan. AF also celebrated her birthday. Ms. Shehla Zia, had a long struggle for safeguarding women rights, their legal protection, repeal of discriminatory laws i.e. Hudood Ordinance, laws against ‘honour’ killing, and amendments in personal laws etc.


At Lahore office, a large number of women leaders from different districts of Punjab joined Aurat Foundation’s staff and renown women’s rights activists to celebrate the National Women’s Day and expressed their solidarity with human rights defenders facing violence because of their work for promoting human rights.

At the event Ms. Nigar Ahmed, Executive Director Aurat Foundation, said that National Women Day is celebrated on 12th February each year to remember Pakistani women’s movement, their courage and bravery to fight against violence and discriminatory laws and injustices which are persistent to this day. She stressed that there is a need to create a widespread awareness and commitment for a just, democratic and caring society in Pakistan where women and men are recognized as equals and lead their lives with self-respect and dignity.
Member Women Action Forum and renowned women’s rights activist Ms. Mahnaz Rafi said that women’s struggle will continue for justice, peace and equality. The 12th-February marks the 32nd anniversary of the momentous challenge to General Zia-ul-Haq’s military government and his ‘Islamisation’ process. On the 12th February 1983, women in Lahore broke the dumb founded public silence against the military regime by protesting on the Mall Road. The women were baton charged by the authorities and mass arrests took place but these women resolved to continue their struggle.

Ms. Mumtaz Mughal, Resident Director, AF, said that laws are the reflection of the values of society. Women are struggling for attaining more and more legal protection and empowerment. There are many factors responsible for the poor protection of women’s rights e.g. lack of education, rigid values system, absence of proper implementation of the laws and complex judicial system. Many steps have been taken to improve the status of women which are remarkable but there is still a need for devising a mechanism for implementation of these laws.
Mr. Muhammad Tahseen, Executive Director, South Asia Partnership Pakistan said that 12th February is celebrated throughout the country to acknowledge the achievements of women excelling in different fields of life. Status and rights of women are still unchanged. Discriminatory laws exist and struggle for women’s social, political, cultural and legal rights against customary practices still continues.


At Karachi office the National Women’s Day celebration was attended by a large number of Women Action Forum (WAF) members, GEP partners and representatives of other civil society organizations.

Ms. Mahnaz Rahman, Resident Director of Aurat Foundation welcomed the participants and spoke about the significance of National Women’s Day and paid homage to Ms. Shehla Zia for her struggle for women’s rights in Pakistan.

Dr. Masuma Hasan, President AF’s Board of Governors, said that women activists have achieved a lot in their long struggle and a lot of women-friendly laws have been made. She said that we should focus on the positive trends of society and celebrate women’s journey to success and not just dwell on the atrocities committed against women by the society.
Ms. Anis Haroon, Board Member of Aurat Foundation, paid tribute to Ms. Shehla Zia who was the pioneer in women’s movement. She spoke at length about her contributions not only for Aurat Foundation but in taking women’s rights to a whole new level with her legal and constitutional acumen. She also recited a poem she has written on Shehla who is fondly called ‘Shelly’ by her friends.

Dr. Asha Bedar, elder daughter of Ms. Shehla Zia, was also present on the occasion. She recalled her childhood memories and her mother’s passion and devotion to her family and close friends. Ms. Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson NCSW, lauded her friend and colleague and highlighted her pivotal role in taking the government on board on women laws which is still paying off in taking this movement forward. She added that it seems only yesterday that Shelly was with us, though it has been 11 years,she left us in 2005.

Justice (R) Majida Razvi, Chairperson, Sindh Human Rights Commission, said that there has been a lot of change and women are on the forefront in almost all professions. Women need awareness and a conducive environment to thrive and flourish in their respective professions, and support of family especially male members also plays a crucial role in their success.
The representatives of various CSOs and GEP sub-grantees also shared their experiences and the issues faced by women and emphasized that a lot of good work has been done and a lot more still needs to be carried out. A young woman leader Ms. Maria Taqdeer, also a student of exchange programme to USA, shared her struggle and achievements in both her personal and professional life. She is a role model and an inspiration to other young girls facing similar circumstances. She inspires and guides how to rise above the cultural barriers single-handedly by gaining confidence and support of their families to fulfill their dreams and ambitions. A documentary was also screened at the end of the program.


Aurat Foundation’s Islamabad office organised National Women’s Day celebration at the Islamabad Club, where women beneficiaries of Gender Equity Programme (GEP) shared stories of their triumph at an event to mark. Their success stories showed how a little bit of help can turn around the lives of Pakistani women. Ambassador of the United States to Pakistan H. E. Mr. David Hale joined as special guest. The event was also attended by senior government officials, diplomats and representatives of the UN.

“The training that GEP gave me brought a very big difference in my life and my work. It enabled me to support my own family as well as other families in our community”, said Ms. Razia, a flood survivor from Kashmore. Ms. Razia now has her own business of traditional handicrafts and also employs other women in her village. Ms. Azra Bibi, another beneficiary of GEP’s awareness-raising projects, said, “I learnt about labor laws and workers’ rights, I learnt about how workers could organize themselves to demand their just rights”. Ambassador Hale admired the courage of Pakistani women in his remarks. He commended the work GEP had done. The Chief Operating Officer of Aurat Foundation Mr. Naeem Mirza and Chief of Party – GEP Ms. Simi Kamal also addressed the gathering. They talked about the history of the National Women’s Day and GEP’s contributions to the struggle for women’s rights in Pakistan and hoped for the continuation of its legacy.