Experts at a programme were of the opinion that there were many rights which were enshrined in the labour laws for working women, yet the non-implementation of these laws has become a major hurdle in giving full rights to women, who are now contributing immensely to the national GDP of Pakistan.
They said that women in the private sector had no job security and there was obvious gender discrimination in fixing wages, provision of medical facility, promotion criteria and job description.
Similarly, women faced different kinds of harassment at workplace and no transport facility was provided, they said, adding that public transport was another major issue, as there was very little space for females in mini-buses, and even that was occupied by men.
They were speaking at a media briefing organised by the National Organisation for Working Communities (NOW – Communities) on women’s action for better workplaces at the office of the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE). The briefing was arranged to communicate the recommendations to the government which NOW Communities obtained during the first WAction Women Convention held on March 31, 2018, at the CPNE and was attended by more than 100 women workers from four different sectors vis-a- vis industrial, public, private and entrepreneurs.
Since its formation in 2007, NOW-Communities has tried to root itself in the working communities by strengthening their contacts and building more through different interventions.
The recommendations given during the convention were consolidated for all the sectors and included various suggestions like the grant of six months’ maternity leave to working mothers with full pay benefits before and after the birth of a child, job security of female workers, issuance of contract letters with proper job description, regularisation of contract workers, equal work for equal pay, no discrimination on the basis of gender, provision of transport facilities, workplace safety, formation of anti-harassment committees against workplace harassment, health and safety at workplace, proper training facilities, promotion of women at decision-making places and providing them opportunity in trade bodies.
While endorsing the recommendations, Nuzhat Sheerin, chairperson of the first-ever Sindh Commission on the Status of Women (SCSW), stated: “The laws are there but implementation of the same is lacking. There is need to properly utilise funds for the betterment of women.” However, she regretted that even the SCSW is working under resource constraints. “There are only 22 members of the commission. The office staff is insufficient to carry out the enormous work burden which is supposed to be undertaken by SCSW.
While speaking to the media, Mehnaz Rehman, director of Aurat Foundation, said that now women were working side by side with men in every sector. She said women were deprived of their basic rights although men were also not getting their full rights in some organisations due to the non-implementation of labour laws and the absence of unions in those organisations.
“Harassment at workplace cases should be reported on time and must be taken into consideration immediately by the committees and timely decisions should be taken for the redressal of the complaints.”
She added, “Every organisation, whether it is private or public, should provide well-equipped healthcare centres, along with the presence of a lady doctor for female workers. Vocational training centres for women should also be established. Public transport must be provided to women workers and the Workers Welfare Board should provide women-friendly vehicles to women workers,” she added.
Farhat Parveen, Executive Director, NOW Communities while explaining the WAtion project said: “We want to enhance the capacities of women workers so that they negotiate their employment terms with their employers while being fully informed of their rights.”
She said that it was the responsibility of the policy-makers and legislators to frame laws and implement them properly to bring improvement in the working conditions of women. She said that WAction had established five cross-sectoral alliances in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta and Islamabad. “These alliances will take these findings to the concerned authorities for further action,” she concluded.