re(Negotiating) Mobility in Gendered Spaces in Lyari, Karachi: Why Does She Move?

Author(s): Aarti Lila Ram
Final project
Year of publication:
Supervisors: Anna Karlsdóttir


Women and girls in Pakistan inhabit a space and city differently from men, who are the default users in a patriarchal society. They (re)negotiate the city differently, and they also perceive and contest the social, cultural, and material boundaries of space differently. In the low-income neighborhood of Lyari in Karachi, this (re)negotiation is exacerbated by constant fear of harassment and sexual violence, moral policing, surveillance, and control over women’s bodies (Adnan, 2019). In Lyari, women and girls are still largely associated with the private sphere and confined within four walls, where streets and public spaces are dominated by men and their gaze, where loitering or pursuing recreational activities is not deemed an appropriate act, and just the existence of women and girls and their stepping out of the house is radical. This reality reduces women’s and girls’ freedom to move around the city on their own terms as well as their ability to access spaces and streets for education, work, leisure, and recreation. In addition, it limits their access to essential services, and social and cultural activities, and adversely impacts their mental and physical health (Allen, 2018).

This research project uses the theory of agency through an intersectional lens which is central to measuring the key dimensions of women’s agency and incorporates the concept of participatory citizenship, vulnerability, and identity politics in the context of marginalization within a larger theoretical framework, investigating mobility patterns, restrictions on women’s mobility, and spectrums of violence. It explores the relationship between the two and analyzes how women and girls choose to reclaim their space and identity from positions of marginalized classes, gender, and, in certain cases, religion. It further outlines potential themes identified through the analysis of the wide range of existing literature and personal interviews, and draws attention to understanding the barriers that women and girls face in their daily mobility in Lyari and how they (re)negotiate and reclaim their space to access the city including the recreational spaces.

The research project aims to build and strengthen the capacity of women and girls in mobility, space, and harassment, and introduce them to various recreational activities through trainings in Lyari. These trainings aim to: provide access to pursuing their choice of recreational activity, enhance their knowledge about these issues, provide them with hands-on recreational skills, and contribute to their ability to negotiate and question at an individual, household, community level.