By: Xari Jalil
LAHORE: Representatives from the Gender Equity Program (GEP) and HomeNet Pakistan discussed labour issues and presented recommendations for comprehensive policies and legislation at the federal and provincial levels.
This was done in a three-day meeting organised by HomeNet Pakistan titled “National Grants Opening Meeting” which aimed at bringing about better collaboration with its district-level partners of GEP. The meeting shared findings of the exercise on a gender sensitive analysis of labour laws.
HomeNet Pakistan Executive Director Ume Laila Azhar said her organisation was the national coordinating body for the district-level advocacy campaigns being supported under GEP’s seventh grant cycle. HomeNet Pakistan, she said, would take women workers’ issues forward for provincial and national advocacy under the initiative.
She said woman workers from formal and informal sectors would be taken on board and brought together on one platform.
Training and Capacity Building Specialist of GEP Mahpara Ghori said: “Gender is one of the main organising principles in Pakistani society. An artificial divide between the roles of production and reproduction, created by the ideology of sexual division of labour, had placed women in reproductive roles as mothers and wives in boundaries of their houses and men in a productive role as breadwinners in the public arena.”
She said the inherent bias was further reflected in the existing labour laws and policies at all levels in Pakistan – these are gender biased in general. “The objective of the programme is to improve the conditions of women workers in formal and informal sectors.”
Under the GEP, USAID and Aurat Foundation took an initiative to give awareness to women workers about their rights and labour laws. To meet the objective the GEP provided assistance to 14 partners across Pakistan.
The issues related to discrimination against women workers in Pakistan and their non-inclusion in labour laws and policies were highlighted.
Through the initiatives and interventions at national, provincial and district level GEP aims to focus on the issues faced by women workers and engaging them at the district level – both in terms of enhancing their skills.
Dr Javaid Iqbal Gill, representative from Punjab Labour Department, agreed that the labour laws in the country were inherently biased against women but said the government was working hard in improving them.
He referred to a gender-based survey of existing labour laws, saying they were obsolete because most of them were drafted in days when it was hard to perceive a woman as a worker.
Apart from this, there are no first aid facilities, anti-harassment committees are missing, employee retention rates are poor, women workers have no linkages with safety nets, right to associations are compromised due to lack of trade unions, transport is available for very few women workers, wages are far less than what a male worker would get for the same amount of work, maternity laws are applied partially or not at all and employment of contractors is rampant.
As a result of this consultation recommendations were presented including pushing for more incorporation of women workers’ rights in HR policies, development of proper accountability mechanisms, monitoring by district and provincial labour officials, appointment of female labour inspectors, formulation of anti-harassment committee at each workplace, enforcement of labour laws in far-flung areas especially in Gilgit-Baltistan province, involvement of women in policy making, defining polices for work and equal division of labour, involvement of women in boards and trade unions, extension of labour laws coverage to the informal sector, introduction of policies for the informal sector, bringing the informal sector into social net of EOBI and social security.
Besides this the participants sought minimising the role of middlemen and reducing the gender-based discrimination.