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March 13, 2018

Sindh urged to turn policy draft for HBWs into law

Karachi

March 13, 2018

Recently, a famous clothing brand faced social media rage amidst allegations of inhumane work conditions, but there are several small clothing and other brands treating brutally home-based workers.

These brands have not yet even formally employed the workers, but they outsource the work to women and pay them a meager amount, with no facilities. In May 2017, the Sindh government recognised home-based workers (HBWs) officially as part of the informal economy and approved the Sindh Home-Based Workers’ Policy 2017 to develop plans and programmes for the protection and promotion of the rights and benefits of these workers.

But, despite passage of more than a year, the drafted policy has still not been moved for legislation; therefore, these workers have yet become entitled to get due rights. In the absence of laws, these women workers are not entitled to get Employees Old-age Benefits Institution (EOBI), social security, medical card and other benefits.

According to HomeNet Pakistan, a membership-based network, comprising membership-based organisations representing the majority of HBWs across Pakistan, there are 20 million home-based workers in the country, and 12 million of them are women.

A UN Women Report 2016 indicates that the HBWs contributed almost Rs400 billion through their wages to the economy, 65 per cent by women. This amount is nearly equal to 3.8 per cent of the GDP in 2013-14.

In order to help these workers to get the required skills and legal protection, HomeNet Pakistan started establishing centres in different cities of Sindh and Punjab. Zoya Khan, 22, resident of Baldia Town, enrolled in a short course of beautification and became a beautician at one of these centres in her neighborhood four years ago. “After training, I became a tutor and taught a beautification course to eight other girls. Now they are trained and running their own beauty parlour,” said Khan.

She also learnt making handmade wooden lamps, jewelry and other items at the centre, where around 20 women of the neighborhood come every day and learn sewing, handicraft and other skills. But despite having training and required skills, these women have no social protection due to the lack of laws.

At another such centre in Orangi Town’s Sabri Chowk area, Irum spends almost the entire day working on a handheld sewing machine, inside a room of her house, but she can merely earn around Rs100 to Rs150 a day. Different garment brands deliver clothes and other required items at her home and she sews clothes and hand them over to representatives of the garment brands. “The brands sell clothes at higher prices, but they pay us only a small amount,” said Irum. She gets only Rs12 for a baby frock.

She finds it very difficult to look after the house and education of her children, as she has to spend almost the entire time sewing clothes. “In the absence of laws, these workers are suffering and have no access to medical facilities, job security and protection. Also, their wages are not fixed and the famous garment brands exploit them,” Babar Raza, program manager for HomeNet Pakistan. He demanded that the Sindh government convert the Sindh Home-Based Workers’ Policy 2017 into a law, so that these workers might get their due rights.

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