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April 12, 2011

Home-based workers urged to identify themselves as labourers


April 12, 2011

Home-based women workers should identify themselves in census forms as workers and also mention their respective field of work.
This request was put forward by speakers at the first annual convention of the Home-Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) at the Arts Council on Monday.
The speakers said that during the census, the identification and counting of home-based women workers can come handy as sustainable data can be presented to the government for providing facilities to them.
Representatives of women workers from across the country as well as from India and Nepal attended the day-long conference at the jam-packed auditorium.
On the occasion, the HBWWF also presented a memorandum to the ministers of labour, and women development for categorising the home-based workers as workers and labours and fixing their minimum wage at Rs7,000 per month, besides ratifying the ILO Home Workers Convention and providing them with social security and old-age benefits.
Labour Minister Amir Nawab said that a national policy on home-based workers has been drafted which would be implemented soon, following which the home-based workers would be getting the rights of labourers.
He said that the government was aware of the problems of the masses and urged the people not to derail the democratic process in the country. He said that the present government has lifted the ban on trade unions imposed by Gen Musharraf and the minimum wage was raised from Rs4,600 to Rs7,000.
Minister for Women Development Tauqeer Fatima Bhutto said that the census would not only include the data of home-based workers but a separate column for them would also be introduced in the NIC along with special health cards for them.
General Secretary HBWWF Zehra Khan said that as per their estimates the country has about 8.6 million home-based workers, of whom 70 per cent are women. According to her, the women used to work up to 12 to 18 hours but earning only Rs30 a day.

Moreover, they are not permanent employees and are deprived of social security.
Director of HomeNet Pakistan Ume Laila said that 20th October will be observed as the day for the home-based women workers of South Asian countries. She said that Katmandu Declaration was passed on this day in the year 2000, calling for a policy for all these workers in South Asia.
She said that the number of home-based workers increased from 27 to 29 per cent in five years due to rampant unemployment and poverty.
Nasir Mansoor of Labour Education Policy stressed for formulating a policy and enacting legislation for the home-based workers, saying, there should be a mechanism to register women workers under the old-age benefit scheme.
He said that industries were now operating in homes instead of factories, and called for changing the definition of workers and labourers. Referring to a survey depicting the meager wages of women workers, he said that during last year’s football world cup around 30 million footballs were produced from Pakistan, of which 25 per cent were produced by home-based women workers. These workers were paid only Rs90 per ball while in foreign countries it was being sold for Rs10,000.
Om Thapaliy, Director HomeNet Nepal, invited the people to the second convention of HBWWF to be held in June in Nepal. He said that the condition of women workers was similar in Nepal as like in South Asian countries. Speaking in broken Urdu, he said that Nepal has 2.2 million home-based workers who work without social security and minimum wage.
Sapna Joshi, Program Coordinator of HomeNet South Asia, said that the home workers remain unaccepted in South Asian countries, adding, women in Sri Lanka usually did not come out but in India trade unions and corporations were working together for the rights of home-based workers.
Earlier, in the first session of the seminar, home-based workers from across the country shared their grievances.
Zahida Parveen from Karachi’s New Town said that they used to sew frocks for which they were paid only Rs5 per piece while the same was sold in the market for Rs 1,000. She highlighted the plight of home-based women workers earning meagre wages for hard labour. Similarly, Zareena from Hyderabad said that they were paid only Rs40 for producing a bunch of 350 bangles, adding, a number of such women workers were suffering from various diseases like TB and Asthma, while their hands got damaged in the bangle-making process.
Parveen Sakhi from Balochistan said that women in their area were not allowed to work outside and they work indoors but even then they were being targeted. “We will continue to work even if they throw acid on us,” she declared.

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