Why she marches
Thousands of women across the country took part in Aurat March events on March 8 to demand a number of fundamental human and economic rights. They were joined by allies and other oppressed groups across the gender and economic spectrums. Unsurprisingly, not everyone was on board, as religious parties organised counter-protests of their own, and some armchair activists mocked and harassed the participants. While the view of the Aurat March participants and the religious parties’ marches can be respectfully disagreed with, there was actually a confluence on many of their claimed goals. While the methods and language may not have aligned, objectives such as inheritance rights and respect for women in the home and public places are common issues that both groups raised, and most people will willingly support. Unfortunately, there are also the armchair ‘activists’ that put forward ridiculous theories that quite honestly reflected why the women were marching in the first place.
Indeed, most opponents of the march have not been able to define why slogans demanding that women have control over their own bodies and lives are so ‘offensive’. Even Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq, speaking at the party’s own Women’s Day march, made a point that aligns with the Aurat March participants’ demands. He called on the Election Commission of Pakistan to block any candidate who is found to have denied his sister her inheritance rights. He also promised to lead by example, saying he “will not give a party ticket to any man who doesn’t give his sister her rights.”
But apart from mainstream religious parties, there were also those who somehow escape prosecution despite decades of terrorising the men and women of the capital. Students of Jamia Hafsa and its affiliates staged a ‘Haya March’, which, as can now be expected of any event involving the ‘school’, descended into violence. Male participants of the Haya March attacked the Aurat March with bricks, stones, sticks, and shoes, injuring a few people before the police intervened. And while condemnation came from all quarters, tangible action invariably will not be taken against the men that literally assaulted women in broad daylight. And then they ask why she marches.
At a recent event in the federal capital, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar expressed the incumbent government’s commitment to exploring Pakistan’s demographic potential and reaping its ‘immense’ dividends in a bid to make the country a vibrant economy. The minister believes that investing in the country’s demographic potential will enhance opportunities in the job market, generate revenues and put the country on path of development and prosperity. The minister has rightly pointed out that countries like Indonesia, Japan, China and India have taken advantage of their demographic potential but “unfortunately, Pakistan – despite having a big potential – has not utilised it”.
Different from population potential – which concerns the total number of persons living within a certain geographical boundary – demographic potential suggests the demographic power of a nation and its ability to provide future population growth. According to a research study, demographic potential is “an aggregate index related to ultimate posterity of the population” and is determined by a variety of factors. In one of the ways, “demographic potential is a set of knowledge, skills, abilities and motivations” of a person or persons that have economic influence and value. It increases as a result of investment like education, reproduction, and migration, and decreases as a result of wear, with time.
The concept of demographic potential is not aimed at measuring actual population perspectives, but to gauge the existing weight of the population and its potential ability to grow. This concept has been used by several countries of the world to project future tendencies on the basis of the examination of past trends. Data comes at the heart of the whole concept if a government seeks to gauge and realise the demographic potential of a nation. There is, thus, the need for us to first work on data collection.
Terror bites the dust