Dialogue: MPA invites reaction to statement on `women`s little hard work`

KARACHI: Kulsoom Chandio, a member of the Sindh assembly, thinks that men work harder than women. She kindled a sharp reaction when she let out the statement during a discussion on Sindh Home Based Workers Policy, 2014. HomeNet had organised the event on July 16 at Hotel Mehran.

“I went to visit my village in Dadu,” she said. “And when I saw the hari working so hard in the fields, I was convinced that men work harder than women.” A few men applauded her. However, National Trade Union Federation’s Nasir Mansoor could not take it.

“Women do much more than men,” he protested. “Not even a [religious party] supporter would give such a statement. It’s a shame that Benazir’s saathi could say something like that.”

HomeNet regional director Nuzhat Shirin Khan and labour department’s joint director Gulfam Nabi Memon jumped to Chandio’s rescue and changed the topic. Khan had earlier briefed the session about the policy. She played a few video clips, highlighting the plight of the home-based workers. A few women were in the video clips, sharing their tales.

“My back aches while making these bangles,” said another woman. “I must make 315 bangles in half an hour. My husband helps me in my job.”

One home-based worker, who must be not more than 14 years old, said that she dreamed of going to school. “But if I study then who will run the household chores?” she said. “After all, I’m the eldest sister and have to take care of the house.”

‘Unpaid family helper’ is what the home-based workers are currently known as, said Khan. She explained that they do not come under the definition of a worker because they work from their homes and are thus deprived of the rights that all other employees enjoy.

HomeNet is a non-governmental organisation that works in collaboration with the UN Women and ILO to introduce and implement legislation to ensure the protection of home-based workers. The purpose of the policy is to make sure that these workers are acknowledged as ‘workers’ and are guaranteed the rights to minimum wage, access to skill-enhancement training, social security benefits, right to form trade unions, and much more, said Memon.

According to Khan, as many as five district action committees (DACs) have been set up to organise the home-based workers and give them awareness of their rights. Currently, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Thatta, Sanghar and Nawabshah, have a DAC each. Home-based workers are given representation in these committees and are trained.

Memon said that a provincial policy has been formed and has been sent to the chief minister for approval. The CM now wants it to be presented as an act. “I assure you that before the end of Ramazan, we will present the act,” he said. “Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is the only party that has included home-based workers in its manifesto,” he said, beaming with pride.

“The contents of this policy draft are quite idealistic,” said planning department assistant chief Muhammad Saleem Jalbani. “It looks good on paper but has little practical application.”

Memon replied that the HomeNet team is working hard to ensure the implementation of the policy and an inspector from the labour department will be given this duty.

“It is my suggestion that you don’t hire an inspector from the labour department as we all know that the labour department does not do any work,” said Sikandar Sheikh.

“I worked from 9 to 5 today, still you are unsatisfied with the department?” retorted Memon sharply.

Apologising for her earlier statement, Chandio said that she truly recognises the hard work of women.

“A woman does an incredible job carrying a baby for 10 months,” she said. She was, however, unable to come up with any other great achievements of females.

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