Women's sovereignty always been deliberately suppressed, hidden and erased: Attiya Dawood

Asma Jahangir and Habib Jalib memorial lecture held in Brussels, economic social empowerment of women discussed

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Well-known researcher, poet, playwright and author Attiya Dawood giving her speech at the event in Brussels. Photo: Courtesy our correspondent
Well-known researcher, poet, playwright and author Attiya Dawood giving her speech at the event in Brussels. Photo: Courtesy our correspondent

BRUSSELS: The biggest obstacle to women's liberation in Pakistan is the state itself, which is also a signatory to the UN Charter of Human Rights, says well-known researcher, poet, playwright and author Attiya Dawood.

She was speaking at a memorial lecture, 'Women's Empowerment in Pakistan', organised by the Progressive Thoughts International to pay tribute to late human rights lawyer and activist Asma Jahangir and revolutionary poet Habib Jalib at the European Press Club in Brussels, Belgium.

The event also aimed to discuss the economic and social empowerment of Pakistani women and solutions to other issues. It was presided over by Jalib Chair International President Malik Mohammad Ajmal, while Khalid Hameed Farooqi, the founder of Progressive Thoughts International, and Jalib Chair International Chairman Saifullah Saify, co-hosted the event.

A picture of some of the panelists. Photo: Courtesy our correspondent
A picture of some of the panelists. Photo: Courtesy our correspondent

Various political, social, journalistic, scientific, literary and diplomatic figures attended the small event due to coronavirus restrictions. The speakers didn't only mention economic and social issues, but also emphasised on women's self-esteem and health issues.

In her speech, Dawood told the guests that centuries ago, our Sufi poets emphasised on the issue of women's autonomy. "These Sufi poets made the social status of women and their economic role in society an important part of their poetry," she highlighted.

"The journey to protect women's rights in the West has been going on for centuries, but we, in Pakistan, are still fighting for it," she said, adding that it is right that we demand that women have the right to live as they wish, the right to marry, the right to education and work, the right to have children and divorce, because these are the elements of their constitutional and legal rights.

She paid tribute to Asma Jahangir, Hina Jilani, Shehla Zia, Majida Rizvi, Nighat Dad and others for playing a critical role in fighting for women's rights and drafting laws to protect their rights. She also paid tribute to Habib Jalib, IA Rehman, Asif Aslam Farrukhi and other progressive men for raising their voices in favour of oppressed women.

The portrayal of women in Pakistani films, TV dramas

Dawood criticised Pakistani movies and television dramas, saying that the beginning of every story is a woman who cries, a woman who patiently endures any oppression, a woman who fears divorce for the sake of family honour, to be the secretary of her male boss and functions as a slave to protect herself from his evil eyes.

"A striving woman after finding the support of a good man has a happy ending. If all this is shown in movies and TV dramas, men will clearly try to justify their negative attitudes towards women," she said.

At the end of the lecture, while answering questions from the participants, Dawood emphasised that much remains to be done for women and that every part of government and society must play a role.

'Men should not be afraid of encouraging women'

Maria Laura Franciosi, the founder and president of the Press Club Brussels Europe, congratulated Progressive Thoughts International for hosting an important lecture and said that men should not be afraid of women.

She highlighted that encouraging women and giving them opportunities with a positive approach will be to their [men's] own advantage. "Education and the arts can play an important role in ensuring women's dignity and protecting their rights," she said.

At the outset of the event, Ajmal welcomed the guests and reiterated his commitment that the Progressive Thoughts International Forum will always support women and stand shoulder to shoulder for their rights.

Senior journalist Khalid Hameed Farooqi thanked the guests and explained the goals and objectives of Progressive Thoughts International. He said that the group was founded in 2018 as a cultural, literature and human rights forum aimed at building a more meaningful and stronger relationship between the West and Pakistan.

Empowering women

At the same time, the main purpose of the forum is to highlight the progress and achievements of women and to play an important role in empowering them.

In his welcome address, Saify paid a heartfelt tribute to Dawood, highlighting her struggle for civil and specially women's rights and her scholarly services.

On the occasion, Hafiz Unib Rashid, senior journalist and founder president of the Pakistan Press Club Belgium, presented two books for the European Press Club Library to Franciosi.

The books, 'Freedom of the Press' written by Ahfaz Ur Rahman and 'The Press Under Siege' written by Zameer Niazi, deal with the struggles of Pakistani journalists. Dawood, meanwhile, gifted Franciosi traditional Sindhi ajrak.

Leading figures, including Swedish interpreter Tina Lindenburg, renowned EU-based British journalist and publishing editor of 'EU Today', Gary Cartwright, prominent feminist Elizabeth Visoska, Dr Asiya Sadiq, progressive leader, political activist and senior journalists Rao Mustajab, Malik Akhlaq, Nadeem Butt, Sardar Siddeeq, Akhtar Sialvi, Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor, Ismat Jahan, the first woman ambassdor of OIC to the EU, and others attended the event too.