KARACHI: Gender equality within the workplace is still a far-off goal in Pakistan even though it has ratified United Nations convention and has passed legislation in this regard. Women working in different industries in the country still face wage discrimination, economic insecurity and often have no say in decision-making.
Female labour representatives, trade unionists and civil society activists criticised the lack of implementation of laws which exist in the country for protecting the rights of working women. They were speaking at a seminar titled, ‘Labour Market Dualism in Pakistan,’ at the Pakistan Medical Association House on Friday that was organised by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) and WageIndicator Foundation.
PILER joint director Zulfiqar Shah, who opened the seminar, said that the aim of the gathering was to discuss the issues faced by working women and hear their problems. “If globalisation has given empowerment to women on one side, then on the other it has also increased their problems,” said Shah, adding that women are still not free from gender discrimination.
Naghma Iqtidar, a student at the University of Karachi, said that women feel insecure no matter how powerful they are and the reason behind this is economic insecurity. “In the current system, the biggest problem for a woman is being a woman,” said Iqtidar, adding that women face problems in both urban and rural environments. She said that it is more difficult to get a job for married women as compared to unmarried ones because employers feel that married women ask for more leaves and have more issues. “Employers look at the appearance of the applicants and in the ads, they even specify ‘larki achi shaklo surat ki [the girl should be beautiful]‘.”
A factory worker and labour rights activists, Shakeela Aghar, lashed out at political parties who take extortion from factory owners and close down the city at the death of their activists, stating that it is the workers that suffer the most during such times. “These parties never close the city at the death of ordinary citizens, otherwise they would have closed the entire country for a day to protest the death of 121 children in Tharparkar,” said Asghar. She also criticised employers for not giving appointment letters to their workers, which deprive them from their old-age benefits and social security.
Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FPCCI) representative Amjadullah Khan asked the participants of the seminar to draft a resolution on the problems they face and to present it to the chief minister, assuring them that the FPCCI will provide support. “We should work as a family.