Invisible no more: Sindh all set to adopt a policy for home-based workers

Published: January 17, 2017
A couple busy in preparing wooden baskets to earn a livelihood for their family in Hyderabad. PHOTO: PPI

A couple busy in preparing wooden baskets to earn a livelihood for their family in Hyderabad. PHOTO: PPI

KARACHI: Sindh government is ready to adopt a policy for home- based workers (HBWs), making it the first province in the country to implement such a policy.

Moreover, Pakistan will be the first country in South Asia to adopt the policy and recognise HBWs as labourers.

The formal announcement of the policy will be made by Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on January 18, said Home-Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF), general secretary Zehra Khan on Monday.

She was addressing a press conference at Karachi Press Club, which was also attended by organisation’s s information secretary Shabnam Azam and Nasir Mansoor, the deputy secretary general of National Trade Union Federation (NTUF).

The policy was pending for the last several years so I sped up the process and it was finally approved, said Senator Saeed Ghani, who works as labour adviser to the Sindh CM. “[The policy] shares the guidelines and action plan. We will pass a law on this issue in the Sindh Assembly soon,” he said.

Nevertheless, Khan termed it a ‘moment of joy’ for the 12 million HBWs in Pakistan, who were not recognised as labourers before. After a delay of two years, the provincial government has approved a policy to bring HBWs into the legal network and entitle them to enjoy benefits offered to other regular workers, she said.

Speaking about the benefits of the policy, Khan mentioned that it will allow HBWs the right to social security, pension, minimum wage and collective bargaining. Moreover, they can also go to labour courts for resolution of their conflicts. In Sindh, more than five million HBWs will benefit from this policy, Khan said while speaking to The Express Tribune. HBWs are the backbone of many industries such as textile, jewellery, sports, shoes and bangles.

People buy really expensive bridal suits but they don’t realise that behind it is the hard work of unrecognised HBWs, who are not even paid minimum wage for their endeavour.

CM had approved the HBWs policy in November, last year, and then the law and justice department issued a notification for it on January 13, she said. In the light of this policy, a draft bill is also in making and is expected to be tabled in the provincial assembly soon, she added.

Lifetime of struggle

HBWs have been endeavouring to get legal recognition for a decade, remarked Khan. “Our hard work has paid off,” she remarked. The women of this informal sector organised themselves and formed HBWWF as a platform to continue their struggle. This policy is not even present in India, even though a larger number of HBWs are working there, she added.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 17th, 2017.

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