Yesterday marked 8th March, which is celebrated globally as “Women’s Day”; a day that celebrates womanhood and gives ode to the women in history, and the women today, who fought and are fighting against the many trials, discrimination and challenges faced by women simply due to their gender. The date is significant in history- it was the day when women in Soviet Russia gained suffrage in 1917, leading to the day being celebrated by the socialist movement and then adopted by the United Nations.

Seeing that women are now more economically and socially independent than any point in history, it is a strange thought that less than a hundred years ago, women around the world were not even granted the right to vote. Humanity has progressed quite a lot since then- yet there is still a long way to go before the goal of gender equality is achieved. While the world might see more freedoms of women than before, there is still significant gendered discrimination faced by women of all classes, castes and races, and the evils of domestic violence, economic inequality, honour crimes, forced marriages and enforced gender roles still exist. For the enormous struggles that women still face, we commemorate this day to remind ourselves of the very long way to gender equality that still lies ahead.

Pakistan is a country which still faces significant gender disparity and Pakistani women have taken the initiative of using this day to further the cause of women empowerment in a revolutionary way. For a country with restricted mobility for women, and where women are not often seen in the public sphere, remarkable Pakistani women, through grassroots efforts, have arranged a protest, termed the “Aurat March”, where women, as well as men, of all classes and ethnicities, are invited to march along the roads to register their support for women empowerment and to demand an end to gendered oppression. For a society with so many divisions of class, gender and cast, it was heartening to see yesterday women from all backgrounds hold hands and march in unity against all kinds of oppression.

It is also encouraging that the Pakistan’s parliamentarians have expressed support for the movement. Prime Minister Imran Khan reaffirmed his government’s commitment to providing women a safe environment. But perhaps the most moving message came from parliamentarian Sherry Rehman who tweeted: “I march because public spaces are domains where I too have the right to have my voice heard. I march because we still have a long way to go.”