From reclaiming the public space, to gallantly playing on the sports field- women are proving that despite an inherent inequality towards them, they are breaking barriers and pushing through glass ceilings.

Where Khula – the right of a woman to seek divorce – is concerned, Pakistani women, today, are on the brink of a major social change. The numbers of women opting for it is growing at an unprecedented rate in Pakistan’s urban centres and data retrieved from family courts confirms this. Within the first 10 days of 2016, 36 applications for Khula were filed in Karachi alone. This is not because society is moving towards ill morals or our family structures are weaker, but because oppressed women now increasingly see a way out of unhappy or abusive marriages.

In other bold initiatives, Zar Aslam and her NGO, The Environment Protection Fund (TEPF), have made a journey from the physical to social and cultural environments. The latest foray of the TEPF was in gender rights and women’s empowerment, which seeks to make the environment more conducive for women to become more mobile, safer and better able to make a living for themselves. Their Pink Rickshaw Scheme with the intention to be driven by women for women passengers only, not only made the government stand up for specific transport for women, but also highlighted the need to finally talk about the safety of women in the public sphere. Women in sports were never taken seriously, except in Pakistan! Our young cricket team has overcome cultural stereotypes to set national records and win international acclaim.

To start making the public used to the sight of girls riding bikes, women were invited for a bicycle rally last Sunday. The rally was a response to a girl being assaulted in Lahore for the sole reason that she was a female who dared to ride a bicycle in public.

The narrative around violence against women, particularly in public spaces, is always and depressingly the same: What was a woman doing out anyway? Women in public spaces are exposing themselves willfully and are “asking” for violence. These minds will not be changed in a hurry, but women in Pakistan are doing their part in making themselves seen and heard.

Feminism is a humanist philosophy, that values all humans as equal. It is not about hating men, or breaking society. It is about creating space for individuals who have none, and giving them autonomy to make their own decisions. It is time for our society to accept that all people are of equal value and respect, regardless of their physical characteristics.