KARACHI: Raising red flags high in the air, hundreds of women demanded the Sindh government to approve the Home Based Women Worker Federation’s (HBWWF) policy that has been pending for three years.
At Karachi Press Club on Thursday, several women staged a demonstration on the South Asian Home Based Workers’ Day to commemorate the Kathmandu Declaration of 2000. The activists shouted slogans, calling for speeding up the struggle against industrialists. Their placards had messages such as ‘Consider home-based workers as labourers’ and ‘Provide home-based workers societal security’ inscribed on them.
The Kathmandu Declaration for the rights of South Asian home-based workers was adapted by representatives of South Asian governments, United Nations agencies, non-governmental organisations and trade unions in a conference organised by the United Nations Development Fund for Women and Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing in October 2000. It was supported by the International Development Research Centre.
“Millions of workers have been awaiting signature of competent authority on home-based workers’ policy for the last three years,” said HBWWF’s general secretary, Zahra Khan, while talking to The Express Tribune. According to her, the female workers are working without any identity and are, thus, exploited by the industrialists.
“These home-based workers don’t have any minimum wage set for them,” she said, adding that they have no social security or health benefits. Due to the sedentary nature of their jobs, she said that these home-based workers develop several kinds of health issues and are not paid well enough for treatment.
These workers, she said, are not paid more than Rs5,000 per month. “At least their wages should be calculated and then set accordingly under some law,” she said. She demanded that home-based workers category be included in census.
According to Khan, there are presently 12 million home-based workers in Pakistan and 80% of them are women and their number is growing with each passing day. Due to lack of health and safety measures, she said that these workers face accidents and suffer from different diseases. Despite all of their hardships, these home-based workers are not even considered as workers under any labour laws, which is why they are deprived of all facilities and perks provided under these laws. “The cabinets of Sindh and Punjab should immediately approve their respective home-based policies,” she demanded.
The finance secretary of HBWWF, Saira Feroz, said that once the female home-based workers get an identity, they will be in a position to negotiate with the industrialists on their terms.