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WDF hails passing of Sindh Women Agriculture Workers Bill

By Our Correspondent
December 26, 2019

Welcoming the recently passed Sindh Women Agriculture Bill 2019 aimed at empowering the women of the rural swathes of the province, the Women Democratic Front (WDF) has appreciated the Pakistan Peoples Party for taking the lead on legislation for labour rights of women in the agriculture sector. However, they have expressed deep concerns about overall agriculture production relations, which, they say, are an obstacle to achieving larger objectives of this law.

In a joint statement issued on Tuesday, Sindh and central leaders, including Marvi Latifi, Maqsooda Rattar, Alia Bakhshal, Tooba Syed, Aabida Ali and Ismat Shahjahan, the WDF said that the group understands that the new legislation is an important legal development guaranteeing the legal rights of women agriculture workers, mainly through recognition of women’s work in the agriculture sector, including farming and livestock, as well as fisheries and related sectors.

It also promotes and protects their rights to ensure their participation in decision-making, eight hours’ work, proper contracts and wages, 120 days of maternity leave and Iddat leave, a harassment-free work environment;, equal wage, the right to form unions or associations or to associate themselves with an association, and the registration of workers at the union council level.

“The bill ensures their official recognition by employers and the state, and protects their right to fair arbitration. In our view, these are important measures to set in motion struggle of women agriculture workers,” said the WDF, a left-leaning-feminist political outfit. “We strongly encourage the formation of appropriate state institutions to ensure thorough implementation of these provisions. We also call upon other provinces to take similar initiatives, as labour law is a provincial subject after the 18th constitutional amendment.”

The WDF noted that due to high male-migration from villages to other cities within Pakistan and overseas in search of jobs, there has been an increased feminisation of agriculture labour over the years, and that the majority of women take part in agricultural activities as unpaid family workers or heavily underpaid daily-wage labourers, despite the fact that the work involves long hours and intense labour and forms a key part of the economy.

“We also note that women’s labour in agriculture has historically been not recognised as ‘work’ by formal and informal institutions. This results in the marginalisation of agricultural women in every aspect of their social and economic lives. Above all, feudalism inherently involves worst forms of labour exploitation and patriarchal oppression of farmer/peasant women.