Karachi, March 8: A big rally staged by the Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) here Thursday demanded to end all discriminatory laws against women, and accept them as equal citizens.
The rally was held on the occasion of the international women’s day and it was led by HBWWF general secretary Zehra Khan. Thousands of women workers, representatives of trade unions and social and political organizations attended the rally that marched from the M.A Jinnah Road and ended at the Karachi Press Club.
The speakers said that the society could only be made democratic and progressive by ending discriminatory laws and biased attitudes against women. They said the Pakistani women, especially the women workers have been struggling against the society that it based on exploitation. The working women of this country are celebrating their international day in very difficult conditions. They like the working women of other countries are also braving multiple exploitations. On one hand there are reactionary traditions, customs and old thinking that have kept the women in slavery chains and on the other hand the women workers are braving the worst exploitation of the capitalist system, in which they are given lesser wages as compared to wages of male workers and they have to work for more hours.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), in industries of textiles, garments and footwear the difference between wages of male and female workers is 64.5 percent which is largest in whole world. However, according to a report of Oxfam on international level the pay gap is 23percent which is increasing continuously and it would take 170 years to end this gap.
The speakers said the harassment of women at workplace has become a routine. In Pakistan the women, especially girls and non-Muslim women have been braving mental, physical and sexual torture in factories and farms. This menace is on the rise. When they demand their due rights, the feudal lords, mills owners and the management take coercive actions against them. Sadly, there is no section in the labor laws of this country to end harassment of women at workplace.
They said today we cannot forget the great revolutionary woman, Comrade TahiraMazhar Ali under whose leadership the international women’s day was observed first time in Pakistan on March 08, 1948 and a new torch was raised for the rights of women. This struggle was continued by Mai Bakhtawar, Comrade Shanta and Asma Jahangir. Mai Bakhtawar struggled against feudal lords, Comrade Shanta against the capitalists and Comrade Afzal Tauseef and Asma Jahangir against dictatorship.
They said the exploitation of women is not limited to tribal and feudal societies, but the capitalism has created the worst forms of the exploitation of women. Against this exploitation, the women workers belonging to the textile sector had started their historic struggle in New York in 1857, and to remember this struggle the day of the 8th March is celebrated in whole world as international day of women. Though 161 years had passed of start of this struggle but the international capitalist system has given women nothing saving poverty, hunger, diseases, joblessness and economic slavery. As per an estimate women are 75percent of the poor population. This is the cruelty of the capitalistsystem that according to McKinsey Global Institute 2015 report, the women are not given wages of 10 trillion dollars every year for their work and services at home.
The capitalists in order to maximize their profits are shifting the nature work to the non-formal sector and resultantly the work has shifted from the factories to homes in the form of home-based work. However, these home based workers who are about 12million in number, mostly women, are not recognized as workers under the law. They are not included in collective bargaining, social security, EOBI, health and safety and are deprived of all basic rights which the other workers in formal industries avail legally and constitutionally.
It is the historic achievement of Pakistani women workers that they organized themselves for getting their due rights and established the first federation of the home based women workers of Pakistan, Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF).
Due to their continued struggle, the government of Sindh in November 2016 accepted the home based workers as workers and announced a policy for home based workers and drafted a law in this regard. When this law in enacted by the Sindh assembly, more than 5 million home based workers in Sindh would be included in the legal definition of worker and they would get all legal rights and privileges like other workers.
In January 2014, under the Sindh Industrial Relation Act (SIRA 2013) the first labor union of peasants of Sindh, Sindh Agriculture General Workers Union was registered and 40percent of its members are women farmers. This union works in18 districts of Sindh province. These achievements show that the rights could be obtained through the organization and the day of March 8, 2018 is the day to pledge that the struggle against the injustice and exploitation based system would continue with organizing workers with a revolutionary awareness.
On the occasion, the home based women demanded that:
- Government of Sindh should announce the law for home based workers as soon as possible and Pakistan should rectify the homework convention 177 of the International Labor Organization.
- The feudal and tribal system should be ended from the country, as this system has kept women enslaved for centuries.
- All anti women traditions should be ended, discrimination to women, KaroKari, WataSata and honor killings should be ended.
- The legal system should be improved and its access to common citizens ensured.
- Effective legislation should be carried out to end the religious extremism and it should also be implemented.
- There should be equal wages for equal work and the wages of workers should be increased.
- The maternity and post maternity leaves of women workers should be increased and also implemented.
- The women should be given representation in all elected institution on the basis of their ratio in population.
Those spoke included HBWWF central general secretaryZehra Khan, Saira Khan of United HB Workers Union, ShabnamAzam, National Trade Union Federation deputy general secretary Nasir Mansoor, President RafiqBaloch, SabhagiBheel of Sindh Agricultural General Workers Union, Mushtaq Ali Shan, HabibuddinJunedi of Sindh LaborSolidarity Committee, HBWWF Sanghar’sSajidaKausar, ShahidaParven, KausarPerveen, Home Based Bangle Workers Union’s Jameela Abdul Latif, Shakeela Khan.
Representatives of social and political organization also shown their solidarity with the working class women including veteran labour leaders Usman Baloch, Communist party of Pakistan leader Comrade Rashid Taj, Pakistan MazdoorKissan Party, Aslam Khokar, Jammu Kashmir Peoples National Party leader Sultan Mahmood, MazharHussain, Faisal Edhi and Saba Edhi from Edhi Foundation, Social Activist Jibran Nasir, Writer Comrade Zubairur Rahman, AslamKhokar and others.
At the end of the rally workers and agriculture workers also performed theater