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March 9, 2020

‘Our society respects those who suppress voice of women’

March 9, 2020

A large number of working women, mainly home-based workers and those working for the bangle industry and in factories, took to the streets on Sunday to mark International Women’s Day.

The Home-Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) along with several other civil society and labour groups moved in the form of a rally from the Arts Council to the Karachi Press Club.

Outside the press club speakers demanded equal respect, legislation for home-based workers, provision of health and social security benefits to female workers, and an end to discrimination.

HBWWF General Secretary Zahra Khan said women across the world celebrate March 8 because it is a symbol of the struggle of women against their exploitation and oppression. She said that anti-women forces are attacking them under the guise of piety and from behind the wall of reactionary traditions of society.

“We live in Karachi, where the female members of society from a seven-year-old girl to a dead woman in her grave are not safe. Our society respects the people who suppress the voice of women.”

She said female workers, especially home-based ones, have been deprived of their rights to form unions and act as collective bargaining agents for their wages and other perks that their employers are required to provide.

She also said that today women vow to become a political force to turn Pakistan into a democratic socialist society, and to ensure gender justice and equal status.

Other speakers said that besides dealing with negative beliefs and traditions, women also face cruel economic exploitation. They said women workers get lower wages compared to their male counterparts.

Citing an International Labour Organisation report, they said gender-based disparity in the textile, garment and shoe-making industries is about 64.5 per cent, while an Oxfam report puts worldwide gender-based pay gap at around 23 per cent and it is increasing. They lamented that to end the gender-based pay gap will take more than 170 years.

They demanded that all discriminatory laws against women should be abolished. They said women should be provided protection against harassment at the workplace and vigilance committees against harassment should be formed in all institutions. They also demanded that laws should be formulated to end sexual harassment and forced conversions.

They said policies of the International Monetary Fund and other international lending institutions should be shunned, adding that agricultural reforms should be announced and lands granted to landless female Haris.

They stressed the need to register all workers, including home-based ones and Haris, with social security institutions.

On the occasion the speakers lauded the services of Tahira Mazhar Ali, Shanta Bukhari, Mai Bakhtawar, Asma Jahangir and Afzal Tausif, and vowed to continue their struggle. The speakers included Saeeda Khatoon of the Ali Enterprises Factory Fire Affectees Association, Sabaghi Bheel of the Sindh Agricultural General Workers Union, Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation, Saba Edhi of the Edhi Foundation, rights activists Sadia Baloch and Hani Baloch, Kosarul Nissa and Shakeela Khan of the HBWWF, and columnist Zubair Rehman.

MQM-P’s event

Marking International Women’s Day on Sunday, speakers at a seminar organised by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) said a progressive society could not be built in Pakistan unless we put an end to suppressive policies and discriminatory treatment of women.

The title of the MQM-P’s seminar was ‘Who is Responsible for Women’s Exploitation’. The event was held at the backyard of the Karachi Press Club. A large number of party’s women supporters from different areas of the city attended the seminar.

MQM-P’s convener and former federal minister Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, MNA Kishwer Zehra, economist Dr Kaiser Bengali, intellectuals Aniq Ahmed and Mohsin Naqvi, and former chief election commissioner Kanwar Dilshad were among the speakers at the event.

Zehra said the MQM-P had always advocated for women’s rights and ensured that they enjoyed all rights in the party.