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Guest writer and artist, Iman Ahmed takes us through the art presented at the Aurat March.

On Monday 8th March 2021, the Aurat March returned to mark annual International Women’s Day with rallies in all the major cities of Pakistan, vocalizing its demands through slogans, powerfully emphasized by poster art.

This year’s demands highlighted many major problems faced by women and minority communities in Pakistan, ranging from the protection against sexual harassment and violence, discrimination, forced conversions and underage marriages to the need for gender equality in all socio-economic spheres.

The March continued to raise necessary narratives aiming towards creating a safer, gender-inclusive environment. However, what strengthened the message of these demands was not simply the songs, chanted slogans and large crowds, but the visual impact of the Aurat March itself; the variety of vibrant posters, witty comments and bold illustrations of confident women marching towards an ideal Pakistan. Building on issues faced by women, ranging from major crimes like rape and assault to the smallest acts of harassment like staring and catcalling, the posters helped capture the movement’s determination to make Pakistan a safer place for women, allowing them to shine against all adversity.

The art of Aurat March also highlighted the increased accessibility and inclusivity, the presence of wheelchair facilities making the rally accessible to everyone, regardless of age or disability.

Bright, pop-art inspired posters portrayed a wide range of topics, capturing powerful images of the march as a safe space to raise awareness and explore the collective difficulties faced by women, the LGBTQ+ community, ethnic and religious minorities. Even Covid-19 could not dissuade the marchers, the mask becoming a symbol of strength and dedication to the movement.

Images of bold women free from the fear of being who they are or subjected to societal norms was a common theme amongst the posters, exploring the woman’s place in the workplace, home, family and even male-dominated public spaces like dhaabas.

While not everyone was able to attend this year’s march, the power of these posters spread across social media platforms and the rallies drew attention to the Aurat March as a national parade celebrating women, minorities and the LGBTQ+ community, its illustrated demands accessible to many. Traditional customs were reexamined, patriarchal notions of the woman’s place in society challenged and issues of representation within socio-political power structures questioned. When worded demands are overlooked, the Aurat March’s posters never fail in reinforcing them, adding to the movement’s visual power as a force to be acknowledged.

Iman Ahmed Iman Ahmed is a writer, artist, illustrator and a student of the arts always ready to undertake new creative endeavours. In her works stretching from painting, mural design and poetry, she often explores the power of colour and visual elements in shaping narratives.

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