The Protest, Transformation of the Public Sphere and Notions of Femininity; Women Experiences in Pakistan

  • Dr. Akhlaq Ahmad Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, International Islamic University, Islamabad
  • Dr. Farhan Navid Yousaf Associate Professor, Institute of Social & Cultural Studies, University of the Punjab, Lahore
  • Mr. Muhammad Bilal Lecturer, Department of Sociology, Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan
Keywords: Protest, Transformation, Public sphere, Femininity, Pakistan


This research analyzes women’s participation in a sit-in organized by a mainstream political party, Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) in the capital territory of Pakistan. This sit-in continued for 86 days. Taking theoretical insights from Jurgen Habermas and Max Weber, this study looks at women’s experiences during the sit-in. The research discusses how the women transformed this ‘political sit-in’ into the public sphere and created alternative discursive space/s to looked into/evaluate their social, cultural, economic and political conditions and voiced their narratives into the present masculine/ patriarchal political structure of Pakistan. Interpretivist’ epistemology was a guiding methodological application for this research. The data come from 10 women participants. The thematic analysis helps the interpretation. Findings reveal that women exercised their agency as their religious duty, which in turn enabled them to develop their feminine social capital. Women transformed political sit-in into a distinct political space and challenged the traditional notions of Pakistani femininity. They lived in an open space for 86 days without their families, mostly taking decisions at their own, chanting anti-government slogans, having clashes with police, getting married and giving birth. Media facilitated projection, visibility and public support. Women’ commitment to the change disrupted dominant stereotypes about women, their role and voice in Pakistan. Charismatic leadership instrumentalized religious teachings for persuading participants and the advancement of the political agenda of socio-political change in Pakistan.