So there are some issues that us feminists are tired of dealing with, the most obvious being patriarchy. But other than that, there are several things that also hurt women and clearly need to be addressed as well. The WoW Festival was a remarkable effort in bringing incredible stories forward, but there were so many lessons to be learnt that we had to narrow them down.
1. Women need to be each other’s strength – This idea was put forward by Pakistan’s Women’s cricket team’s captain, Sana Mir. In her talk, she discussed how she wants to encourage and empower the other girls in her team. She announced that back in 2005, Mir was the only Pakistani woman to be in ICC’s top 20 players list, and this used to irritate her; she felt that there should be more Pakistani women. Today, under her leadership, there are 8 Pakistani women on that list.
Lesson learnt: Women, stop competing amongst yourselves and help bring each other up. I know of so many ‘aunties’ who criticize me and my way of life more than any man has ever cared to. Women use so many labels for each other and are constantly judging each other. We need to stop fighting!
2. Men need to play a bigger role – This idea came forward in conversation with The Nescafe Basement Girls, who had a Q and A session with the audience before performing at the concert later in the evening. These young girls have formed an all girls band, with 10 girls who play all sorts of instruments, performing shows across Pakistan. While everyone was wondering that their parents must be really supportive to allow these girls to travel for concerts and nurture an unusual profession (for women in Pakistan), the girls were quick to give all the credit to Xulfi, the producer and mastermind behind Nescafe Basement. The girls said that it was Xulfi’s idea to make a song that should be done by just girls, that even the pianist or percussionist should be a female. This fun idea then gave birth to this all girl band, who now have so many opportunities ahead of them.
Lesson learnt: As much as some feminists are accused of ‘hating’ men, women need men just as much as they need other women to support them. In a patriarchal society, unfortunately a man’s support goes a long way in empowering a woman. So, dear men, there’s a huge population of skilled, intelligent and talented women waiting to be given a chance. Bring them up alongside you, you’re only helping your own society and economy by doing so.
Nescafe Basement girls performing for a live audience at the WoW Festival
Photo Credit – Salt Arts
3. There is nothing that can’t be solved through dialogue and a cup of tea – Girls at Dhabas have now become a prominent voice, thank God for that. So of course they had something up their sleeve for the WoW festival. The ‘Behenchara’ corner was one of my favourite initiatives at the festival. First, I love their spin on the word ‘bhaichara’, which means solidarity, but changing the ‘bhai‘ to ‘behen‘ and making it more female-friendly. Then, these girls were standing at the stalls making tea themselves and serving it to everyone all day in the sweltering heat that has hit Karachi this year. The corner was also very inviting, where anyone could simply join the conversation if they had something to say or simply listen if they wanted to learn.
Love the creativity in the name, but also, look at how fun their poster for the event was!
Lesson learnt: Again, why are we fighting when we could all simply be talking to each other over a cup of tea?
4. There is no room for excuses – That is the biggest lesson learnt by hearing all these inspirational women – no- people talking about their lives. Their sex has nothing to do with their stories. Even if a man was doing all these things, it would have been just as inspiring. Syeda Ghulam Fatima, an activist fighting to end bonded labour in brick kilns, has been tortured and electrocuted! YES, you read that right. If she can continue to fight for her cause even after that then we really don’t have any excuses left.
Lessons learnt: The next time you don’t participate in protests, or reclaim public spaces, or complain about having to dress differently because you are bothered by men staring at you, do something about it. Not a good enough reason to stop you from doing what you want to do.
“Women have to be each other’s strenght” – Sana Mir
5. There is literally nothing that women can’t do – Singer, cricketer, activist, politician, actor, dancer, journalist, photographer, athlete – Women at the WoW Festival came from all walks of life and are involved in so many things that it’s really incredible. I didn’t realize that football was actually becoming quite a popular sport amongst young girls in Karachi, or that there are so many female activists fighting for the rights of other marginalized groups, not just for themselves. That’s what true feminism really is; no one gets left behind, whether women, children, elderly and so on.
Lessons learnt: My dream to learn playing the drums can still be achieved because we need to remove the taboo. Women need to start getting more involved in professions or activities that are considered traditionally ‘male-oriented’ and now I know that so many women are already challenging these stereotypes. More power to women!