’Acceptance of women’s rights must for social uplift’

March 6, 2016 Off By Web Desk

Karachi: The day of March 8 is the symbol of the global struggle of women and in Pakistan the women would also struggle against the class-based exploitation and religious extremism. The society would not progress till the rights of the women are accepted and they are considered as equal citizens. The victory of labour over capitalism would give the women their real independence.

These views were shared by the speakers of a gathering at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) on the occasion of the international women’s day, organized jointly by Home-based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) and National Trade Union Federation (NTUF). It was attended by a large number of home-based women workers, labours belonging to different industries, and the affectees of Baldia factory fire tragedy. On the occasion, candles were lightened in the memory of the struggle of working women. A glowing tribute was paid to the women workers martyred in the Baldia factory fire. The gathering was led by HBWWF general secretary Zahra Khan.

Addressing on the occasion, Zahra Khan said today we are celebrating the international women’s day in an atmosphere where on one hand laws against violence on women are being passed and on the other millions of home-based women are deprived of their basic facilities though they contribute in the production process. She said that 80percent of the national economy is contributed by the informal sector and women comprise 70percent of this sector and their number is increasing rapidly. According to an estimate their number is more than 16million, but these workers are not given the right of legal recognition as worker. These home-based women are an important part of the production process and they contribute up to 40percent in the national economy. However, as they are unskilled worker, there is no scale of their salaries and wages. The sitting government of Sindh had promised in its election manifesto to resolve the problems of the home-based women workers on priority but the home-based policy is still gathering dust in the chief minister’s house and the government despite having majority in assembly is not passing it.

Saeeda Khatoon, vice president of Association of the Affectees of Baldia Tragedy said that the women workers have been facing the worst conditions in factories and workplaces even in the twenty- first century. She said a large number of the victims of the industrial mishaps are women workers. Its example is the tragedy of Baldia factory fire in which a large number of the women workers perished. However, their heirs are struggling for getting justice even after passing of three years.

NTUF deputy general secretary Nasir Mansoor said that the number of home-based workers is rising sharply in Pakistan; however, the government is not giving any attention to resolve their problems. These workers brave many diseases and their wages are also not paid timely. Millions of women home-based workers use their homes as factories to make goods for the capitalists. They pay electricity, gas and other utility bills in this regard, themselves. In 80percent localities of Karachi, the home-based women are the part of the production process, but they brave abject poverty and hunger. However, now the home-based workers have already started a struggle for their rights which would play an important role in a positive social change.

Central president of NTUF Muhammad Rafiq Baloch said that millions of workers are present in the informal sector but the government statistics is silent about them. He said though this statistics play an important role in planning for national economic development, but the government departments are negligent to compile this important data. He said that the government of Pakistan has ratified more than 37 international labour conventions and got the special status of GSP+ in the year 2014; however, still the workers of the informal sector are deprived of the right of being accepted as labours as per law and thus they have not got any social security.

The gathering demanded that all discriminatory laws against women should be abolished and the women should be considered as equal citizens. The Jirga system and other extra-judicial systems should be ended. In factories and workplaces gender-based discrimination should be done away with.

They demanded that the affectees of the Baldia factory fire tragedy should be given justice. Discrimination with women due to ignorant customs and traditions should be made a crime. The educational syllabus should be changed on scientific basis and all anti-women contents from it should be purged. The home-based women workers should be acknowledged as worker and a national policy for them should be immediately announced. Laws should be enacted for their rights and improving their working conditions. The government should ratify the Home-based Convention C177 of ILO and ensure its implementation.

They also asked that difference of wages on the basis of gender should be ended. The wages of male and female workers should be equalized and their working hours should be fixed as per law. The home-based workers and their contractors should be registered. All home-based workers should be given social security including healthcare, education, employment, pension and other facilities. The dark traditions of Karo-kari, Wani, Wata-Satta, Sawara, and underage marriages should be abolished and the trafficking of women should be made a crime.

Those spoke included HBWWF general secretary Zahra Khan, Saira Feroz, Jameela, Shabnam, Ruqaya, Zahida Mukhtar, Association of Affectees of Baldia Factory Fire Tragedy vice president Saeeda Khatoon, NTUF president Rafiq Baloch, and deputy general secretary Nasir Mansoor, Sindh chapter president Gul Rahman, general secretary Riaz Abbasi and other.