On 21st November 2016, I got an invitation from my ex colleague to help organize a conference on “Violence against women”.
“World is celebrating a 16 days campaign to raise awareness about violence against women. It will be held from 25th of November and it will be a high level conference,” Imran, my ex-coworker said excitedly. “We want you to join us for at least the first day, all you had to do is to supervise tech and equipment during sessions,” he explained. “We have guests coming from all over Pakistan and we are damn busy these days, please yar (friend) help us.”
They were short of people but the conference time was nearer. At first, I wanted to refuse as I am less into attending events; but thought to attend it to enlighten myself.
Before moving to the story, I would like informing about my background. I worked with a non profit a year ago. But due to strict studies schedule, I had to say goodbye to that job. I still have a tight routine so we decided to take one day off from the university to go to my office. I was so happy to attend my first campaign and was hoping it would make a difference as promised in the invitation letter.
It was 25th November, I got up enthusiastically and rushed to the washroom to get ready. I had fever so mum tried to stop me. “Ahmad beta, regret going.You ain’t well.” “No mummy, I wanna see, learn and help make a change in the society. It is a big issue around the world. But in Pakistan, the magnitude of violence against women is even higher. I don’t wanna waste my time, missing the opportunity to learn something valuable.” “But….”
“Please mum” I pleaded.
Flying my bike, I rushed to the conference hall. I was late for 30 minutes. I was embarrassed because according to the schedule, first session would have been completed.
But to my surprise, the chief guest was still not there. The first session was postponed for another half hour. There were orange balloons, charts, paints bottles everywhere. There were slides and photographs of women from around the world. Most of the photos were about women who had survived violence. A female keynote speaker was standing on the stage and sharing a case study about her childhood friend who had been murdered by her husband a year ago. While guests were listening to her silently. These guests were college or university female students or their teachers only. There were hardly 3 males in the entire hall. And all three of us belonged from the organizers’ group. It was strange for me because to me, men, women, girls, (from all walks of life) must be involved and invited because the subject belonged with both the them.
The conference was divided into 5 sessions and 2 breaks. During breaks, girls used to take selfies, gossip, chat, call and enjoy Islamabad’s “romantic” weather. And in sessions, most of them sleep or some had to come to the stage for sharing what they wanted to share about women, empowerment, society and male’s dominance. I applaud their attempts as they were all good at “talking” ONLY!
The videos and photographs they were making was going alive at Facebook to share the world they attended a campaign “to make a difference”. And the day concluded by raising slogans and promises to end violence against women. I wanna knew how? (I am sure they also did not know its answer).
However, my mind is boggling with the question about the “practicality” of such types of arrangements? I mean there were no men or other people from society involved. (And the irony is violence against women is mostly done by men. But we are still educating “women”ONLY????? I mean do they really need the information thrown at such conferences and events? I mean are women not aware about their rights nowadays? )
So overall, it was a good attempt to help make a change for a day. But do such activism really help make a real difference to anyone’s life in anyways??? I suppose, we only show off others that we “did” but actually, we don’t really want a change ourselves. People who argue they create awareness through these campaigns or conferences. Can they tell me what difference can they make except for giving all attendees an “Orange” shirt to wear and telling them that they can use “pepper guns” to any attacker trying to harass them on their way home???