Organisers of the Aurat March (Women’s March) termed it a “complete success” on Saturday, adding that the turnout was massive which was even beyond their expectations because people from different walks of life had joined in to express solidarity with oppressed women.Organised under the banner of Hum Aurtain – the march undoubtedly attracted a large number of people including men, women and transgender persons. The march began from the Lahore Press Club while culminating at Alhamra Art Centre where several street theatre and electrifying music performances were also held demanding rights for women in every segment of the society. Talking exclusively to Daily Times, one of the main organisers of the march, Nighat Dad said that it was the first ever public march where women participated in large numbers without any fear.“In the past, only familiar and noted faces used to attend such marches but the Aurat March held the other day proved that it had the participation of ordinary women in it who came from different backgrounds,” she added. “The march was not organised by any individual as it was organised by Hum Aurtain – a collective of women but still few people like me had to make arrangements for the logistics and it remained a huge success,” Nighat Dad, who is a lawyer and works for women’s rights said. She further added that we had three principles for the march that included no non-governmental organisation funding, no corporate funding and no political party alliance and therefore “we contributed for the funds individually”.Shedding light on criticism against the march by some segments on social media, Dad said that it is really unfortunate that some people took the posters and placards carried by the participants of the march quite critically. “Every placard had a message and 99 percent posters talked about the rights of women and only 1 percent may be provocative but they also had a certain message to them,” she said, adding that one cannot stop anyone from expressing their feelings in a large crowd publicly. She was of the opinion that they were expecting such criticism because “you have to face resistance while smashing stereotypes that we challenged in our march”.Transgender activist Jannat Ali and one of the organisers also while talking exclusively to Daily Times said that the transgender community got a special space in the march as witnessed by everyone that day. “We are overwhelmed by the treatment we got in the march as the transgender community of Lahore participated in it large numbers,” Jannat Ali said, who is the executive director of Track-T which is an organisation that works for transgender persons.Artist and activist Leena Ghani who was also the co-organiser of Aurat March told Daily Times that the turnout was beyond their expectation and the whole event’s energy was “very electrifying”. “We had around 700 people in our first March last year but the numbers were in thousands this year. Even women sitting at home felt fearless owing to the environment created there,” she said. She was of the opinion that they had a theme of ‘equality’ in the first march but this year the theme was ‘sisterhood and solidarity’.“This year, we had the participation from the labour class, working class, students and teachers from Kinnaird College, Lahore University of Management Sciences and other educational institutions as we rigorously worked for this march,” she added. “We were expecting some criticism after the march as similar voices were raised last year also because you have to face criticism whenever you talk about certain taboos of the society,” Leena Ghani said, adding that the slogans on placards were presented in a very witty, satirical and humorous way that couldn’t be understood by some people.Lawyer and activist Hiba Akbar, who was also one of the organisers, told Daily Times that both the diversification and crowd size of the participants was far greater than last year’s because of “our hard work and mobilisation. We had a very vast outreach this year as we visited colleges, universities, streets and metro stations in order to mobilise women of Lahore for the march that was originally held demanding their rights”, she said.Hiba Akbar further said that students, labour class, working class, domestic workers, lady health workers and female teachers participated in large numbers.“Those who are criticising some aspects of the march should read our manifesto as all their concerns will be addressed after reading it thoroughly,” Akbar said, adding that the march was meant for the marginalised and oppressed women of the society.Published in Daily Times, March 10th 2019.