This is part of a limited, annual, series, “14 Days, 14 Stories”, about ordinary Pakistanis who are doing extraordinary things in order to give back to Pakistan.
Recently, news of Lala Rukh passing away left countless Pakistanis heartbroken.
Lala Rukh was a prominent women’s rights activist who dedicated her life to the cause she so firmly believed in.
Lala Rukh studied fine arts at Punjab University in Lahore and the University of Chicago. She repaid the Institute with the education she had obtained by dedicating thirty years of her life to the educational field. She also went on to establish the MA Honors Visual Art Program at the National College of Arts in 2000.
Lala Rukh remained an outspoken feminist throughout her life.
She was born in a progressive and liberal household, where her own parents urged her to always champion for the rights of women. Her upbringing, her education and the sociopolitical climate around her pushed her to become the bold and fierce warrior she eventually became.
She was a front-runner in the movement that protested against General Zia-ul-Haq’s Hudood Ordinance.
The Ordinance replaced parts of the British-era Pakistan penal code with new criminal offenses of adultery and fornication. These were punishable by whipping, amputation, and stoning to death. This didn’t sit well with a lot of women who firmly believed that they were being oppressed. Therefore, as a united front, Pakistani women set out to protest the ordinance, with Lala Rukh as one of the main leads.
Her incessant need to do more led her to start the movement which eventually led to the formation of the Women’s Action Forum in 1981.
One of her more iconic pictures is that where she is seen burning a chaddar during a protest organized by Women’s Action Forum in Lahore in 1987.
The protest was held to raise a voice against the cold-blooded murder of two sisters in Karachi. The chaddar was burned when the police prevented the group from marching any further.
Lala Rukh was also an artist, capable of conjuring the most beautiful masterpieces.
Though she remained underappreciated throughout her life, those who followed her work loved it deeply. They understood the depth it held and lauded it as a contribution to Pakistan’s art scene. Pakistan lost a valuable gem in the form of Lala Rukh after she succumbed to cancer this past July.
Women Action Forum has lost one of its founding member Lala Rukh. It's a huge loss to Pakistani women's rights movement. RIP Lala pic.twitter.com/xh3qfpCEJH
— Nighat Dad (@nighatdad) July 7, 2017
To say that she was an ordinary human doing extraordinary things would be an understatement. She was a powerhouse through and through and a force to be reckoned with. We applaud her for her contribution to women’s rights and hope that her work has inspired countless other little girls to grow up to be Lala Rukhs in the making.
For more stories from our series about extraordinary Pakistanis check out “14 Days, 14 Stories“.