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Pakistani feminists ride bikes to claim public space

Web Desk — Dozens of women in Pakistan took part in female-only bike races in major cities on Sunday, in an event organized to challenge male dominance of public spaces in the country.

“Our strategy is simply to be visible in public spaces,” said Meher Bano of Girls at Dhabas, a feminist group which organized the races after a woman from Lahore was pushed off her bicycle by a group of men last year for not responding to catcalls.

The bike race was one of many events organized in the last few years by Girls at Dhabas – the name given to roadside restaurants in Pakistan – to promote female participation in public events, fight restrictions faced by women in public places and increase awareness.


“Our strategy is simply to be visible in public spaces,” said a participant


“I drive on these roads all the time but this was maybe the first time I got to experience them while biking,” said Humay Waseem, one of the riders on the 5-kilometre race around Islamabad.

“I loved the feeling of freedom with the breeze in my hair.”

Members of Girls at Dhabas say they are a new generation of Pakistani feminists determined to build on progress made by their predecessors.

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“The women’s movement is as old as Pakistan but it is not something that is really talked about or written about,” said Bano.

“It’s part of a much greater narrative that leads to harassment, it leads to violence,” she said.

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