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May 1, 2015

Call to improve health, safety at workplaces


May 1, 2015

Women workers in the informal sector make a huge contribution to the national economy, therefore, they deserve work benefits and recognition as workers as a matter of right and not a favour by the government.
This observation was made at the one-day convention of women workers organised by an NGO under the USAID-supported Gender Equity Programme (GEP) on Thursday. The convention titled Raising Demands for Women Workers brought different stakeholders together to discuss future course of action.
The convention was organised to commemorate the International Labour Day and pay tribute to the martyrs of Chicago who had waged a struggle to secure rights of labour class.
The convention was attended by hundreds of women HBWs, domestic workers and factory workers, members of the civil society, media personnel, women MPAs and representatives of trade unions and organisations working for labour rights.
A charter of demands was presented towards the end of the event. Some of the demands mentioned in it were that that the HBWs shall be provided with opportunities to sell their goods without the involvement of middlemen, the government shall ratify ILO conventions C 177 and C 189, the government shall simplify the processes involved in registration of unions in the informal sector, the local government elections shall be held without delay and the women workers in the informal sector be given minimum wage.
The participants demanded that the wages of male and women workers shall be equal for doing the same amount of work, measures shall be taken to improve health and safety situation at workplaces and October 20 be announced and celebrated as National Day for Home-Based Workers in Pakistan.
PTI leader and social worker Mehnaz Rafi praised the women workers for turning up at the event in such a large number. She said there was time when it was next to impossible for women workers to leave their workplaces and attend such events. But today they

have realised the importance of organising and struggling for their collective rights.
Ume Laila Azhar, Executive Director, of an organisation, welcomed the participants and said the presence of women workers in large numbers proved that they were well aware of their rights and serious about bringing an improvement in their lives.
She said these women workers were the chief guests of the convention and needed praise for transforming their lives by the dint of hard worked. She shared it with the audience that Punjab Labour Policy had been announced and it was heartening to note that it also talked about rights of women workers in the informal sector. She paid homage to the martyrs of Chicago and asked the women workers to continue with their mission.
Khalid Mahmood, Executive Director, Labour Education Foundation (LEF), focused on the need for measures to ensure Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) for women workers. He said they were vulnerable to diseases of all types as they had to work with hazardous chemicals and acids, sit in harmful postures for years, had to inhale smoke and so. Therefore, he said, the government shall realise the need for providing health and social security cover to them who did not have enough money to spend on their health.
Ghulam Fatima, Secretary General of an organisation. lamented that despite government’s promises, NGOs initiatives and labour unions’ activism, poor workers were facing atrocities. Dr Javaid Iqbal Gill, Director, Labour Punjab said they were working on ensuring health and safety of workers and developing model workplaces. Besides, he said they were also working on a project supported by the UN Women under which they were registering HBWs in three districts.
MPA Farzana Butt said she could easily relate to the women workers present there as she herself had struggled throughout her life to achieve her goals. Aima Mahmood, Shaheena Kausar, Jalwat Ali and HBW leaders spoke on the occasion.

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