Museum Week Report on Women In Culture

The role of women in Pakistani society is equally important which needs to be properly recognized as our women are equally and professionally engaged in all fields, may it be agriculture, medical, engineering, education, art, culture, Armed Forces, business entrepreneurs, politicians or even pilot of a fighter jet. Center for Culture and Development (C2D) celebrated Museum Week in Pakistan, under the theme ‘Women in Culture’ in collaboration with ICOM-Pakistan with the support of UNESCO Paris and MuseumWeek. The program mainly focused on famous Pakistani women in the fields of literature, history, art, museums, culture, science and technology, as well as all those anonymous women whose lives structure our societies. A nationwide campaign, to celebrate the contributions of women in creative fields, comprising of banners and posters displayed at the forefront of Museums, Galleries, Art and Educational Institutions all across Pakistan, including, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Mardan, Lahore, Taxila, Peshawer, Kailash, Swat, Swabi, Harrapa, Faisalabad, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Karachi.

Center for Culture and Development engaged Pakistani institutions to get involved in the international activities of the museum week by displaying the information, and awareness material in their respective institutions for public visibility. This material became part of Pakistan’s contribution to the international campaign to make the creative signature of women more visible. The visitors were encouraged to take a selfie with the exhibits in the museums, especially which highlight the role of women in creative culture. The following activities were proposed and agreed upon to be executed in Pakistan under the banner of Women in Culture:

  1. Seminar
  2. Nationwide Campaign
  3. Art Installation/ Exhibition
  4. Awareness Raising sessions at public places

The details of each programs are as under:

1. Seminar:

Though Museum week was scheduled between 13-19 May in the world but C2D decided to kick start it earlier to make it a month long activity to engage more and more people. Since Ramzan was approaching by May 6, 2019 thus C2D planned to organize the inaugural Seminar in collaboration with Pakistan Museum of Natural History (PMNH), Islamabad, prior to Ramzan so that maximum people can participate despite the hot weather. The Seminar was conducted on the Role of Women in Culture and various speakers threw light according to their fields and expertise, including Dr. Rafique, Dr. Nadeem Omar, Dr. Rafaqat Massroor and Dr. Sumaira Sehreen, Dr. Shamim Zaidi and Dr. Zobia Malik. Around 200 participants attended the seminar from Pakistan Science Foundation, different departments of Quaid e Azam University, Pakturk International Schools and Colleges, Fazaia Education School System and other professionals from various walks of life. The participants were also given a quick round of guided tour to the PMNH to create interest among audience about museums and museology, especially about the contributions of women in that museum.

2. Nationwide Campaign

In Pakistan, Center for Culture and Development, (C2D) in collaboration with ICOM Pakistan engaged many federal and provincial government departments and other intuitions for a nationwide campaign to publically acknowledge the role of Pakistani women in the growth and development of Pakistani society. Public museums in the capital and in various provinces in Pakistan, work under the respective directorates of archaeology, took an active part in the promotion of the public campaign to celebrate the female working professionals in their respective fields. It is heartening to know, that a sign of changing times, all public museums whole heartedly held events and activities to mark the contributions of women in Pakistani culture. This includes, the Directorate General of Archaeology, Punjab, Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Culture Tourism and Antiquities Department, Sindh and Army Heritage Foundation, Islamabad. The museum staff encouraged the visitors to take photographs with the MW campaign’ banners and posters, to take active part in the campaign to acknowledge the role of women in Pakistani culture.

To engage all the museums and associated people, C2D designed a nationwide campaign to celebrate Museum Week on Women In Culture. For that C2D team visited various museums to get them on board and designed promotional material such as banners, posters, standees etc, which were distributed and displayed in almost all the museums in Pakistan including all the provinces such as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Punjab besides capital city of Islamabad through their relevant ministries and departments. Regular teasers for the events were posted and circulated on social media accounts of C2D as well as ICOM Pakistan, which have national and international following. The students and teachers of public and private schools, colleges and universities, all across Pakistan were keenly motivated to visit nearby museums so that they take interest in respective cultures and know their history as well as heritage.

All those museums not only displayed the promotional material for public dissemination but also actively posted on their respective official social media accounts with #MuseumWeek and #WomenInCulture and invited various schools and college trips with free entry to raise awareness at the grass root level and to ensure maximum participation.

Following museums took active part on even social media:

  1. Harappa Museum, Punjab
  2. Taxila Museum, Taxila, Punjab
  3. Army Museum, Rawalpindi, Punjab
  4. Lahore Museum, Punjab
  5. Bahawalpur Museum, Punjab
  6. Peshawer Museum, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
  7. Sethi House Museum, Peshawer, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
  8. Swat Museum, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
  9. Swabi Museum, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
  10. Kalasha Dur Museum, Kailash, Gilgit Baltistan
  11. Mardan Museum, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
  12. Pakistan Museum of Natural History, Islamabad
  13. Golra Railway Heritage Museum, Islamabad
  14. Sindh Museum, Sindh
  15. Mohenjo Daro Museum, Sindh
  16. Quaid e Azam House Museum, Sindh
  17. Sindhology Museum, Sindh
  18. Mukhi House Museum, Sindh
  19. Khairpur State Museum, Sindh
  20. Cultural Museum Sehwan, Sindh

3. Art Installation/ Exhibition

As part of our MW nationwide campaign on Women in Culture in Pakistan, we were able to get the department of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, Sindh on board to dedicate one complete section of Mukhi House Museum, Hyderabad, to exhibit and highlight the works and contributions of women in Sindh. ‘Women of Gold’ will be a permanent feature of that museum, which is in its final stages of display and is about to be officially inaugurated in Hyderabad, Sindh with having a senior female minister as chief guest. This would be first time in the history of Pakistan that a complete section would be dedicated to our women with a them of ‘Women of Gold’ that would comprise the stories of 100 Sindhi women who were the symbol of progress in Sindh. List of those women is attached for reference along with their contributions.

Another cultural festival at Harrapa Museum, Punjab was organized exhibiting the works and handicrafts of local women in Punjab to acknowledge their role and contribution in our society as part of MW’s international campaign. This festival had various stalls, displayed by women, which was widely attended by women from all walks of life in the town of Harappa and Sahiwal. It did not only help generate revenue for those women but also helped raise some awareness in this regard, where role of Museum Week to highlight this aspect was widely acknowledged and appreciated. Among exhibition stalls, clay replicas of female archaeological figurines, such as dancing girl, were also on display to emphasize the importance and significance of women’s role at even historic times.

4. Awareness Raising sessions at public places

C2D motivated various Schools, Colleges and Universities to participate in Museum Week activities on Women In Culture. They were also provided with promotional material such as banners, standees and posters etc to encourage students to take photos/ selfies with banners and post on their respective social media accounts with #MuseumWeek and #WomenInCulture

Various trips of educational institutions were arranged to give them guided tours at different museums in Islamabad. For instance, trips of Students of different campuses of Pakturk International Schools and Colleges were arranged at Pakistan Army Museum and Pakistan Museum of Natural History, trips of Waqar Ul Nisa College for Women, Swabi University KP, Different departments of Quaid e Azam University Islamabad were arranged at Pakistan Museum of Natural History. Each group was given an awareness raising session prior to the guided tour so that they see things with a different lens. All the teachers and students were also encouraged to take their photos with museum objects as well as MW banners and post on their respective social media account with #MuseumWeek and #WomenInCulture. The above mentioned institutions also took part in the national campaign by displaying MW promotional material at their respective institutions, and also encouraged students to submit a trip report to their teachers after visiting museums.

A large number of local Kalashi young girls were invited in Kalasha Dur Museum to celebrate the Museum Week, wearing their traditional cultural attire and dancing on traditional tunes to mark the contributions of women in Pakistani culture.

Another successful awareness raising session was organized at Islamabad Chaupal, which is a social platform for civic participation, held on weekly basis at the Amphitheater of F-9 Park in Islamabad. People from various walks of life, especially women, were invited to participate and to inspire by sharing their own experiences and struggle in life. They were sensitized about the role and contribution of our women in culture and the role of Museum Week to highlight this in an international campaign. A live thematic musical performance by Rahila and Riva cherished everyone as they engaged all the participating women to sing a song on women themselves.

Following women shared their life experiences with the audience:

  1. Zarin Gul, Visual Artist and a Teacher at Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi.
  2. Rahila Ilyas, Teacher, Singer, Musician, counselor and a Social Worker at Alfalah without Walls, Quetta.
  3. Imrana Komal, Reporting Journalist at Channel 92, Islamabad.
  4. Fatima Nazish, Reporting Journalist at Hum Channel, Peshawer.
  5. Zahra Kazmi, Reporting Journalist at Channel 24, Islamabad.
  6. Mamoona Humayun, Fine Artist, Lahore.
  7. Nahida Raza, Fine Artist and owner of Jharoka Gallery, Islamabad.
  8. Riffat Aziz, Teacher and a Poet, Rawalpindi.
  9. Riva Ilyas, An emerging musician and visual art student, Quetta.

5. Interviews of Women In Culture

In addition to the above mentioned agreed upon activities, the awareness campaign also included the video interviews of women working in all fields, breaking barriers, inspiring others and to support the cause of Women in Culture, which later on published on C2D’s social media accounts to motivate other women in their respective fields. The women interviewed to be part of our nationwide campaign were:

  • Rahila Ilyas, is a teacher, counselor, social worker and a signer, who offers music classes to college students and help them perform at their respective institutions. She has been instrumental to train her daughter and son in singing, guitar and piano playing along with her husband who is also a guitarist and a flute player.
  • Azha Ahsan is a successful YouTuber, who runs her own YouTube channel with the name of Ahmed’s Kitchenette, while being a full time mom and a house maker.
    • Huma, was a journalist, who became a teacher and now trying to excel as a development specialist working with an organization.
    • Firdous Butt is a home maker, who carried art to new level as a hobby with the encouragement and support of her father, husband and father in law. She is also a small farmer who raise farm animals as well as grow fruits and vegetables at her own piece of land.
    • Shehnaz Akram is an artist, who struggled very hard to keep her passion of drawing and painting alive, while being a home maker and full time mother.
    • Afsheen Zaman is an educationist, poetess, photographer and a fine artist at the same time. She is a role model for her students who gets inspiration from her and make an effort to excel in their lives.
    • Fatima Nazish is a journalist from Peshawer who works with a local TV Channel. Peshawer is not that liberal as compared to other parts of Pakistan but she kept facing her fears and accepted every challenge to be a successful and well reputed reporting journalist on a TV Channel.

6. Articles in Hilal-Her

To raise more awareness and consciousness among masses on a wider scale, C2D also wrote articles on the same in a national magazine for women ‘Hilal-Her’ on the following themes:

  1. Women In Culture, Izzah Khan, May 2019
    https://hilal.gov.pk/her-article/women-in-culture/MzI2MQ==.html
  2. Pakistani Museums celebrates women in culture, Izzah Khan, June 2019
    https://hilal.gov.pk/her-article/pakistani-museums-celebrate-women-in-culture/MzM5Nw==.html

There is a need to celebrate the contributions of professional women, both young and old, working in the fields of archaeology and museums in Pakistan. The public awareness of the contributions of women in Pakistani culture can go a long way in transforming the mindset of our future generations and make Pakistan a progressive modern society, which respects the rights of women in the private as well as public sphere. To support the cause and for a proper projection C2D posted all the activities and updates on its social media accounts including Facebook and Twitter and engaged many people and institutions to appreciate and share the cause. Following is a snapshot of our MW post engagements. All the posts, videos and photos of activities can be seen at the following links: https://www.facebook.com/C2Dpk/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/808408362531991/