“Women workers constitute a marginalised segment,” Social Welfare Department District Officer Chaudhry Ashraf said on Thursday.
Ashraf made the remarks at a meeting organised to launch a district-level forum for women workers, improve industry linkages and foster a women-friendly working environment. He said there was a need to mainstream women workers. Ashraf said launching a district-level forum for women workers was a formidable challenge. He said the establishment of the forum would raise awareness among women workers regarding their rights and legislation.
“Women workers can become small business owners after obtaining Baitul-Maal grants to secure their livelihoods,” the official said. Ashraf said this would go a long way in changing the perception that men make better businessmen than women. He said Sanatzar would train women workers from underprivileged backgrounds for free. Ashraf said Sanatzar would also award scholarships and stipends to women workers between the ages of 18 and 35. Ashraf said women workers should take full advantage of this.
Union leader Aslam Wafa said there was a lack of unity, hard work and confidence among women workers. They should organise themselves and raise their voice against violence, injustice and exploitation. Wafa said women workers should strive to overcome the challenges confronting them by joining unions and associations.
Anwar Bibi, a brick kiln worker, shed light on the paucity of schools for children of brick kiln workers. Bibi said the working environment for brick kiln workers was not conducive. She stressed the need for fostering a safe and secure working environment at brick kilns. Bibi said efforts should be made to register brick kiln workers with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), the Employees’ Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) and the Employee Social Security Institution (ESSI) to ensure that their particulars were issued.
Union leader Arif Ayyaz said most brick kilns workers were not cognisant of various movements engaged in securing workers’ rights. He said brick kiln workers must join unions to obtain benefits and register complaints. Ayyaz said there was a need to convene a cluster meeting between owners of brick kilns, employees and stakeholders to overcome the challenges confronting brick kiln workers and promote industry linkages.
Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM) project manager Shazia George said there were 240 shops at the Jhang Road Model Bazaar. George said there was only one woman shopkeeper at the Bazaar. She said 36 shops must be reserved for women shopkeepers at the bazaar in accordance with the 15 per cent reservation for them by the government. George said the shops must be allocated to women to enable them to honourably secure their livelihoods.
She said there was little awareness regarding the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act 2010 in the public and private sectors. George said most women did not know which forum to approach in the event of harassment issues. She said the government must strive to ensure the effective implementation of pro-women legislation and labour laws. hang Road Model Bazaar Supervisor Flower Emmanuel said women interested in obtaining shops should submit applications to the DCO in this regard.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2015.