KARACHI: ‘Inspiring Change’, this year’s UN theme for the International Women Day, not only encourages advocacy for women’s advancement everywhere but also calls for challenging the status quo for women’s equality, economic empowerment and vigilance inspiring positive change.
In context of Pakistan women’s equality has made positive gains.
It is encouraging that they have been supplemented with the numbers of Laws Making and Policy Formulation for their social, legal and economic protection during last two to three years at federal as well as provincial levels.
Women have a relatively poorer access over education, skill training and health facilities as well as over labour markets despite having all potential to do quality work as efficiently as of men.
The home-based women workers living in almost every low-income urban locality in the country, as well as in remote rural areas, are amongst the most exploited group of workers.
This is despite the fact that they (the home based women workers in Pakistan) constitute a major segment of labour deployment in the informal sector of the economy.
A large number of these worker producers live and work in on margin of survival conditions and do a variety of jobs for industries, traders, markets and general consumption. As a workforce, home-based workers have remained largely invisible.
Home-based women workers who comprise 70% of the informal workforce contributing towards the country’s economic activities themselves believe that they needed to be recognised as labourers instead of considered as a poor, deserving and insignificant part of the society.
“They must be considered as producers and artisans,” said Nuzhat Shirin, Regional Coordinator, Home Net Pakistan.
Their productivity has to be increased by imparting skill development training, improved technologies, direct access to credit schemes, effective marketing opportunities of their products and putting them under some trade/labour policy of the country.
Economist, Dr Umme Laila Azhar is of the opinion that home-based workers must be adequately reflected in national statistics and recognised as workers in the labour laws of the country.
“This would thus make them eligible for social, economic and legislative protection,” she said.
It would be pertinent to mention that the National Policy on Home-based Workers already framed intends to guide and support the provincial and local governments in developing their own strategies, plans and programmes for the protection and promotion of the rights and benefits of home-based workers.
The core objectives are to recognise and accept home-based workers as workers in their own right through legislative and administrative actions, focus on their needs, concerns and demands and to make them economically viable by creating, facilitation and regulating the marketing opportunities of their products.
The draft of the Policy has been approved by provincial assemblies and after 18th Amendment in Constitution, the policy issue is now being dealt by the provincial governments.
Punjab has already developed and approved it own policy for home-based workers that refers to the general category of workers, within the informal or unorganised sector.
The final draft of provincial policy for Sindh is waiting for approval by the provincial cabinet.
The eyes of millions of home-based workers are focused on to witness as how and when Sindh Assembly move resolution for the demand of the approval of provincial policy and legislation on the Policy.
Dr Umme Laila Azhar reiterated social protection allocations for home-based workers in the forthcoming budget for 2014-15.