International Women’s Day: Celebrating the Lives of Pakistani Women

Posted on March 8, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Photo of the Day, Society, Women
75 Comments
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Adil Najam

As a rule, we try not to repeat posts too often. Sometimes, we feel that the message is either pertinent again or that the original may not have been seen by a new crop of readership. I am reposting this picture and this post, originally posted on this date last year, because the message is even more pertinent today than it was a year ago, and because I feel like I need to say it again.

For Pakistan, this has again been a year of struggles as well as achievements for women. It marked the assassination of Benazir Bhutto – clearly the best known Pakistani woman, whatever you think of her politics. It marked also an election that saw more women win on general seats than ever before in Pakistan. But there was more, much more, to the daily struggles and achievements of Pakistan’s 70 million women that we need to celebrate. Today, and everyday.

In the metaphor of the original post, the message is that we all are (not just women, but men too) crossing the road to better gender relations, but we ain’t there just yet. Not by a long shot. Read on, please, even if you have read it before. What follows is my original post from last year.


Today is March 8 – International Women’s Day. Today we wish to celebrate women in the fullness of what it means to be a woman in Pakistan. To celebrate their achievements (also here, here, here, here, here, here and here). And to celebrate their struggles (also here, here, here here, here, here and here).

I have thought much about how best to capture the meaning of this day. It seems to me that in many very important ways, this picture above does.

I have admired this picture by Jawad Zakariya (whose work we have featured before here and here) from the moment I first saw it at Flickr. I had been waiting, however, for the right time and the right context in which to use it. Today, I feel, IS that right time and right context.

There is both dignity and determination in the posture of this young woman as she tries to cross the road (Jail Road, Lahore). As in any good photograph, there are a thousand stories embedded in this one. The metaphor of ‘crossing the road’ is itself so very pertinent for today. So full of meaning.

For me, here is a woman who is not waiting for someone to ‘help’ her cross the road. She is not demanding any special treatment. Not waiting for assistance. Not invoking the chuvinism of the men around her. She is ready, prepared, even eager, to overcome whatever hurdles come in her way. She just wants to cross the road on her own; for people (mostly men) to get out of her way. That, ultimately, is what this day is about. It is not about seeking special treatment, special dispensations, special laws. It is about ensuring that women have what we men have always had. The ability to realize their own potentials. To rise to their own aspirations. To be able to cross the roads they wish to cross… on their own.

75 responses to “International Women’s Day: Celebrating the Lives of Pakistani Women”

  1. Michael Williams says:

    What a beautiful woman. Where do I find one for myself.

  2. Adnan says:

    The women’s day is to respect the achievements and suffering of women
    But what is the compitition about
    WOMEN ARE EQUAL TO MEN
    this is the most senseless thing to say
    i dont understand why these peaple dont get it…Even two twin brothers or twin sister can never be equal,everyone has their own weaknesses their own qualities …how do they expect the totally different sexes to be the same.My statement would be
    WOMEN ARE NOT EQUAL TO MEN AND MEN ARE NOT EQUAL TO WOMEN.
    I dont want to hurt anyones feelings but i think i donot offend anyone.

  3. cyber cohen says:

    SHARAD says:May 24th, 2008 8:02 am
    “Status of Womens in Pakistan should be equal to Men, they are the one who can guide Pakistan towards better future. Womens are more inteligent than Men in Pakistan.”

    It is nonsense such as this statement that is the cause of a lot of social problems that exist in Pakistan today. Status of women in Pakistan should be as dictated in Islam. No more, and certainly no less.

    Women need to be educated, but this needs to be within rules governed by Islam (for example, women doctors for women, or to be able to learn about the rights given to them within Islam).

    To all those males that have been cheerleading in favour of ‘womens rights’, ask yourselves this simple question: Will you (or did you) accept (or even expect) dowry when you get married? It is easier to talk about in agreement with these issues, but do you actually have the courage to pratice them? Or is the greed too strong?

    Islam does not have provisions for dowry from the woman’s family, yet this is widely practiced in Pakistan.

  4. cyber_cohen says:

    What I see in this picture is that this woman should not be allowed out on her own. Does she not know the common etiquettes associated to everyday road use?

    Also, but more importantly, does she (and others like her) not know that Islam has provisions for womens rights and they do not need to look to foreign (exploited) women for inspiration? All they need to do is educate themselves and their children in what Islam has to say. For example, the common practice of dowry (from the woman’s side) does not exist in Islam.

  5. Sahreen Tanvir says:

    This picture depicts that how much strong a woman is. A woman has a very strong will power and she does not care for any hurdles. This picture depicts all the abilities of woman. I also want to appreciate the photographer who takes this picture from a deep angle. This picture gives us the sense that we should look beneath the sense of matters rather than the looking at the matter apparently.

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