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‘Moving Mountain’: How did Pakistan’s’ hidden ‘women get workers’ rights? Employment

S.Hamim Bano has been a covert worker for 40 years. Working 12 hours a day from home as a “cropper” in the port city of Karachi, he cuts loose threads of cloth and makes samosas for sale in schools.

Bano is paid about 25 Pakistani rupees (£ 0.10) a day. Without access to social security benefits or pensions, this is an uncertain existence for domestic workers in Pakistan. Most of these informal workers are women.

But now Bano has emerged – as the first person to register under the new legislation who will eventually recognize her work. Sindh Province is set to enact a law to provide employment rights to an estimated 300,000 people in the informal workforce.

Sindh passed in 2018 Home Based Workers Act, Making Pakistan the only country in South Asia where domestic workers were recognized as government workers. Although three other provinces of the country have not yet followed suit, it is estimated that 12 million people across Pakistan are domestic workers, making clothes, shoes and handicrafts from their living rooms.

80% of them are women. Their contribution to the economy is commendable. The informal sector employs 71% of the non-agricultural sector in Pakistan Labor Force Survey 2017-18. In rural areas, 75% of the people are employed as informal workers.

Last week, in the dilapidated one-room office of the United Home-based Garment Workers Union in Karachi, Bano became the first woman to work from home in Sindh who registered with the provincial government’s labor department. She will now be eligible for social, medical and maternity benefits, as well as a government grant to help pay for weddings and funerals.

Bano, who lives with her husband, two daughters, son, daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law, says, “I don’t know when I will really benefit, but I’m glad I was at the forefront of this struggle.” Grandchildren even daughters to get to this place, and I have been able to help a lot of women, including my daughters who have a future, it’s better than that [getting this myself]”

Shamim Bano was the first person to register as a newcomer to work from home in his home province of Sindh. Photo: Zofin Ibrahim

It took a long time to reach this place. Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWF), is fighting for its 500,500 members to qualify for social security benefits and receive wages from 2009.

Zahra Khan, general secretary of the federation, said the “historic” registration proved that “when scattered workers, especially women, organize themselves, they can move to the mountains and fight against capitalist greed.” Are “.

Khan added that the registration process would also provide an accurate picture of the number of in-house workers.

When she filled out her registration form, Saira Feroze, 36, the union’s general secretary from the federation, said she never thought “we will be recognized as workers in our lifetime”. And it sounds like “a distant dream.”

The registration process was scheduled to begin in August, but the Kwid-19 restrictions delayed the rollout. Now Feroz’s union is trying to make up for lost time. “We are now talking about starting from the end, filling out the forms and handing them over to the Labor Department,” she says.

Delays in registration mean that women working from home during the Cove 19 Lockdown were not eligible for the government’s emergency cash payment program, which has had a significant impact on domestic workers.

Bano’s husband lost his job selling street food during the lockdown.

Banu’s daughter, Soomra Azeem, says, “There is no work.” “We had to borrow money to buy groceries,” he said. We have not paid a monthly rent of Rs 7,000, or electricity and gas bills, since April.

HBWF President Zahida Parveen said that when the city came to a standstill in March, many domestic workers were already living on their own. “We have the second wave of Cowade-19 and at the height of food, I doubt if we can trust this government to help us.”

Many of us would have benefited from the government if the registration process had not been delayed Emergency cash Payment

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