Saturday, May 2, 2015

Women-only parks in Swabi, Pakistan

Women-only parks
Displaced Swabi women at refugee camp
 near Swabi, Pakistan (2009)

Location: Swabi District, Pakistan

Critics often smugly tell us that the desire for women's space is "white" or "middle class" or "elitist." That it's nothing more than a dinosaur related to the second wave of western feminism. Which of course is "white" and "middle class" and "elitist." Ad nauseum.

How this lie manages to get perpetuated again and again is quite the mystery, given that there is zero evidence to support it.

Long time readers of Lost Womyn's Space know that women's space is documented in many indigenous cultures and in western cultures (broadly defined), as early as ancient Greece.

In fact, if anything, women in countries outside of Europe, Australia, Canada, and the U.S. are more unabashedly militant about demanding women's space than their western sisters. Here is an example from Swabi, Pakistan, where feminist activists are demanding women-only parks. (So technically, these parks aren't "lost" so much as they have failed to come into existence--except in the imagination and political will of dedicated women):

Swabi women demand exclusive parks

SWABI: Women political activists have expressed resentment over the successive governments’ failure to establish separate parks for women in the district.

Speaking at a function here the other day, the women activists, including PTI lawmaker Ayesha Naeem and former provincial minister Sitara Ayaz, said that parks provided a sense of pride to womenfolk.

They asked the males in Pakhtun society to treat the women as equal partners, paying attention to their requirements and providing facilities to them so they could be able to enjoy their life.

Ms Naeem said women lawmakers in the previous government didn’t take steps for establishing women only parks in the province. “Women getting elected on reserved seats should work for ameliorating the lot of their gender,” she stressed.

Speaking on the occasion, Sitara Ayaz said parks were place for women and children to come close to nature and learn from each other through interaction. “No doubt parks reflect the quality of life of a community or nation has,” she said.

Pakistan People’s Party, women wing’s district president, Naseem Akhtar said parks were places which helped the women to remain physically active and strong on one hand, and to improve community’s health on the other. “Visits to parks could help to reduce stress,” she added.

They demanded separate parks for women in the district and sought support of male lawmakers in this regard.

“The number of parks in Peshawar and other cities has cropped up,” said Ayesha Naeem, adding that women should not be confined to the four walls of their homes.

Though a women only park has been established at Tarbela Dam, no such places exist in other parts of the district.

“The park has been set up by the dam authorities at Jobi colony, having boundary wall and all the other facilities. Strict security arrangements have also been ensured so women and children could enjoy without any fear,” said Ishrat Khan, a college student. —Correspondent

Women sit together on outskirts of Peshawar
Despite the fact that Peshawar is very different than, say, Pittsburgh, the men's objections in the comment section are pretty identical to that of any similar proposal in the west. We are mansplained as to how these demands will undermine the fight for "women's rights," which of course means women must expend all their energy pleading with men to be nice and include them--hopefully with minimal threats, harassment and violence if you please.

When women bring up that women-only parks are a health and safety issue, that women can't walk, run, or exercise in heavy burkas and the like, especially in hot weather in "male" public spaces, the men waive that away too. You can't have equality and segregation! So get exercise by doing housework at home!

Really, just the same sh**, different place....In reality, they don't support women's space or "women's rights." And no serious feminist would say that one has to be chosen over the other. No real male ally is going to say, sure, we'll give you equal representation in Congress as long as you give up women's locker rooms. No one could possibly take that kind of "offer" seriously.

See the women's park tab for other examples of fights for women's parks. And notice how very similar the reasons listed are for why women wanted them--and why men objected.

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