One-Day Consultation on The Urban Policy, Planning and Initiatives in Pakistan
HomeNet Pakistan (HNP) in partnership with HomeNet South Asia (HNSA) organized a one-day consultation on Urban Policy, Planning and Initiatives in Pakistan held on 9th July 2009, Best Western Hotel, Islamabad.
Ms. Ume Laila Azhar opened this one-day consultation by welcoming the participants and invited Ms. Renana Jhabwala, President HomeNet South Asia(HNSA) to chair this meeting. She also invited Mr. Arif Hassan, renowned scholar and Urban planner and Mr. Karamat Ali, Executive director, PILER to join the chair as panelists for the first session.
The key objective of the one-day consultation was to understand the issue and problems of home-based workers living in urban areas and further using the knowledge for policy initiatives. Ume-Laila said that HomeNet in the future would conduct a wide range of awareness-raising initiatives with regard to urban policies that affect urban poor home-based workers. She suggested that a ‘national mela’ would complement local efforts to make home-based workers more visible and would bring their issues and contributions to the foreground.
Ms Renana Jhabwala, President of HNSA and Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) chaired the first session of this one-day consultation. She warmly welcomed the participants on behalf of HNSA and HNP and shared that HNSA was formed by SEWA and UNIFEM in the year 2000.
The first panelist, Mr. Karamat Ali, Executive Director PILER Karachi shared that workers have been divided in small units due to which they are unable to benefit from incentives and welfare schemes. He said ¡°Home-based workers should have a union that will enable then to press the government for introducing changes in the existing frameworks,¡± he said and stressed the need to bring home-based workers into the social security need to provide them with old-age benefits, workers’ welfare fund, legislative framework, and other incentives. He further said that it was the primary responsibility of HNP to not only speak about the rights of home-based workers but also should facilitate them to acquire them to live a healthy life.
The second panelist, Mr. Arif Hussain, Ex-President of Aurat Foundation said, 50 percent of our total population is living in seven major cities, out of which 14 million are currently residing in slum areas where they lack almost all basic facilities. He said the trend of contractual labor is fast increasing, as the successive government failed to provide proper legal and social protection to the downtrodden workers. He underlined the need to launch a campaign of ‘world-class cities for all’ and strengthening of government institutions dealing with the country’s labor class.
Dr. Qurat-ul-Ain, Executive Director IDSP and board member of HNP chaired the second session of this one-day consultation on Urban Policy Initiatives in Pakistan.
Professor Darshini Mahadevia , faculty of Planning And Public Policy, CEPT University, Navrangpura, Ahmedabad, in the second session ¡°Issues in urban policies for the poor in India¡± shared that both in India and Pakistan, the NGOs are working on the urban policy from last past few years to bring change in the paradigm of urban poor. He gave some suggestions that there should be a system of skill training, equity in the provision of basic services, sanitation standards need to be improved, solar, bio-gas and non-conventional energy needs to be promoted for street lights as well as in household energy use wherever possible and feasible. He said, in order to ensure proper drainage systems, flood prone habitats should be shifted to higher elevation, canal banks should be raised and protected and retaining walls constructed wherever required, people’s participation in design and implementation of the basic services in slums.
Ms. Renana Jhabwala was invited to share the experiences of SEWA for the development of urban poor. In her presentation she shared that millions of poor workers, especially those working in the self employed or informal sector are caught in the vicious cycle of poverty. The problems these HBWs mostly face are that credit is not easily available for them, transaction costs of borrowing are high, transaction costs of using savings facilities are high and formal features of the banking system clash with women’s needs etc. SEWA Bharat’s member organizations’ micro finance programs play a vital role for its members.
Mr. Hafiz Rashid, Director General of slum areas Punjab, in the session ¡°Millstones of Pakistan Urban planning ¨CInitiatives of Orangi Pilot Project¡± shared the major milestones of OPP in Karachi . He said that community initiatives need to be respected and attitude of partnership with people needs to be promoted and nurtured in government. A space for interaction between government agencies, interest groups (formal and informal) and communities needs to be created, nurtured and institutionalized over a period of time. All plans at city, sector and or neighborhood level needs to be processed through public hearings from conceptual to the final stage.
Strategies for social mobilization to scale up the efforts for empowering urban HBWs
Urban poverty certainly is a challenge in Pakistan: morally, intellectually, socially and economically, but most of all politically. There is no policy of alleviating urban poverty in Pakistan and the employers will have to recognize, without reservation, the basic rights of workers as defined by the universally acknowledged minimum labor standards, embodied in core ILO conventions. Some of them include Convention 29 on forced labor; Convention 87 on freedom of association and the right to organize; Convention 98 on the right to organize and bargain collectively; Convention 100 on equal pay; Convention 105 on abolition of forced labor.
The challenges faced by the urban poor need a new spark of enthusiasm which will effectively harness the energies of the urban unemployed or underemployed to the improvement of slum areas, low cost self help housing and other community facilities and also there is a need to initiate a process of empowering low-income groups and communities living in poverty in the least developed areas of Pakistan, by expanding their economic opportunities, employment, and access to social services, basic infrastructure and other requirements for sustainable livelihoods. Building national capacity to address urban development issues and programmes as well as, advocacy and resource mobilization could be the integral part of the strategy for developing a comprehensive poor friendly urban policy.
Decent Work for Home-Based Female Workers Urged
The promotion of decent work and composed living conditions for home-based women workers would help avoid extreme social tensions and bridge the gap between the well-off and the rest of society.
This was said by participants and the consultative session on ‘Urban policy, Planning & Initiatives in Pakistan’ that was organized by HomeNet Pakistan here Thursday with an aim to raise issues related to home-based women workers.
The participants pointed out various areas that need the attention of the relevant authorities including development priorities of communities, housing security, access to basic services, institutional dimensions, financial needs, mobility local area participatory planning, and strengthening the database of home-based workers.
The speakers urged that the vulnerability of urban poor towards natural disasters, pollution and lack of social protection are priority issues that must be addressed by city governments and urban planners
Renana Jabwala, President HomeNet South Asia, while speaking on the occasion said the work of home-based workers have been acknowledged in the South Asian countries but they are still working for 18 hours that causes adverse effects on their health and social life.
There is a need to conduct comprehensive research on home-based workers that can help them in accessing resources and benefiting from security, safety and development schemes,¡± Renana said.
Karamat Ali, an expert in social issues, said workers have been divided in small units due to which they are unable to benefit from incentives and welfare schemes. He said some 42 per cent of women would go out of their homes to earn livelihood but they are not paid the minimum income by their owners.
Home-based workers should have a union that will enable then to press the government for introducing changes in the existing frameworks,¡± he said and stressed the need to bring home-based workers into the social security need to provide them with old-age benefits, workers’ welfare fund and other incentives.
Arif Hussain, the ex-president of Aurat Foundation, said 50 percent of our total population is living in seven major cities, out of which 14 million are currently residing in slum areas where they lack almost all basic facilities.
He said the trend of contractual labor is fast increasing, as the successive government failed to provide proper legal and social protection to the downtrodden workers. Arif underlined the need to launch a campaign of ‘world-class cities for all’ and strengthening of government institutions dealing with the country’s labor class.
Dr. Darishni Mahadev said it is not good to depend on marketing when it comes to urban development and emphasized the government institutions to be strengthened for the proper implementation of existing laws.
Executive Director HomeNet Pakistan Laila Azhar said they would conduct a wide range of awareness-raising initiatives with regard to urban policies that affect urban poor home-based workers. She suggested that a ‘national mela’ would complement local efforts to make home-based workers more visible and would bring their issues and contributions to the foreground.
Bulleh Shah Foundation
Few like-minded friends who had an agreement on social and political matters, decided to form Bullah Shah Foundation¡± in 1996. The basic idea was to interact with people at grass-root level in their own cultural ethos. A basic core of volunteers was established. These volunteers came from different social sectors and thus a rich variety of input was gathered, which became a great asset. The methodology was simple and rested on few basic points enumerated below:
- The stress and emphasis was on voluntary work. Every member would contribute in any manner, possible for him or her.
- A low profile would be maintained and emphasis would be on social work on Mohalla level.
- Self-sustaining units or institutions would be developed.
This strategy proved successful. Primary importance was given to education, health, culture and environment. Top priority was given to education and a chain of non-formal school was established. Thousands of students belonging to poorest section of society benefited and out of these a large number (especially girls) was able to go up to metric level with their own effort. Because of the motivation they receive from BSF some of them even have gone up to university level.
New Moon public High School:
Ms. Shamim Akhtar, a very committed social worker conceived the unique idea of a school, which would address our target children of those sections of society who have developed an anti-education mindset. Because in their view education is harmful and retorts the capacity of their children to work and this reduces their income and enhances their impoverishment. A regular campaign was launched to recruit the students from the families of
- low paid factory workers
- headed by female bread winners
- home based workers of either genders
- drug addicts
- involved in petty criminal and immoral activities are looked down upon by the community and become social outcast.
To convince parents of such children was an onerous task and credit goes to Ms Shamim Akhtar for her persistence, patience and her skill in mobilizing the volunteers. Finally she was able to gather a few students and the school started functioning. The financial means at her disposal were modest and so the progress was slow. After a series of meetings it was decided to work in four areas.
- Skill Training Center for home-based Women workers
A financial support initially for three months was extended. With the allocation of these funds, the school was shifted in a new and better building, which greatly improved the school’s environment. The staff also appreciates the change and their performance is improving. The community has also appreciated the new effort and credibility of BSF has improved in the local surroundings. The shifting of school to new building created an-other opportunity, now there are two schools functioning, as BSF decided to retain the old building also. The students were divided in two groups, members belonging to formal group and others belonging to informal group retained in old building.
Both the schools are running satisfactorily and the standard of learning; grooming and character building are of high order. The change in the behavior of students has also influenced their families. The young students are pulling their parents out of backwardness and join the mainstream of social life. All this needs a very special study by educationists, sociologists and psychologists. The parents now regularly visit the school and Ms Shamim Akhtar and her staff have to hold regular counseling sessions and listen to the problems presented by the parents.
The school has established a regular drama club. Natara Natik, an organization, which specializes in street theater, has been kind and has agreed to train the students in the art of acting and taking part in plays. Under its guidance staff by members writes the scripts of plays and then the students stage the plays.
We are proud to state that the school team was selected to participate in world drama festival held in November 2007 at New Delhi, India. It is pertinent to point out that it is for the first time that the children of such a marginalized section of society had performed at an international forum. Imagine the effort needed to convince students and their parents, especially for girls to be sent abroad.
Skill Training Center:
Skill Training Center is located in the old building. Although it is functioning but BSF is not satisfied with its performance. The basic reasons are:
- It was a new field for us
- Non availability of good quality teacher
- Poverty creates mental retardation. So, more efforts are required to mobilize the community.
BSF has designed a plan to overcome these problems and make Skill Training Center a viable proposition.
It is needless to say that urban environment has degraded and people are living in very terrible conditions. BSF has begun a modest plan of converting wasteland and drainage banks in to green belts. It will have multiple benefits:
- It will radically change the atmosphere and reduce pollution,
- It will create lot of awareness in the community, and the community will put its own efforts in improving it surroundings,
- The community will get necessary know-how and information at their doorstep.
- Plants of different variety will be available for the community at nominal price and free of cost as well.
The pilot project has been started at Satto Katla Drainage, opposite Green Town Police Station. In a short span of 5 months thousand plants have been grown and now it has been turned in to a reasonable resource center, which is capable of catering for local needs. We hold workshops and seminars to raise community awareness. We also hold a spring festival in spring season.
In spite of establishing a dispensary, for the time being BSF has contacted two doctors for the children and mothers amongst the HBWs for their health needs. BSF is considering other options also, and shall very soon a detailed study about health situation and needs of the community will be compiled and then an independent dispensary will be established.
BSF offers thanks to all concerned and volunteers for their generous contributions and we are hopeful that they will continue with their supporting efforts, without which the projects cannot be sustained.
Impact of Global Economic Crisis on Poor Workers
An estimated 50 million people out of 151 million are currently living below the poverty line in Pakistan and this level is rising sharply.
It is also increasingly evident that women and girls in poor households bear a disproportionately high share of the burden of poverty. Their greater deprivation is due to a host of factors, including restricted mobility, lack of education and training, lower access to or ownership of resources and assets, and limited access to credit and social services.
On the other hand, the global financial crisis has precipitated a global economic recession with significant impacts on employment and workers around the world.
The Global Economic Recession:
The global economic recession is negatively affecting workers everywhere. Little attention, however, has been paid to the impact of the crisis on in-formal firms and workers, working in the informal economy.
There is a common assumption that the informal economy serves as a cushion for Formal workers who lose their jobs. While it is the case that employment in the informal economy tends to expand during economic downturns, Informal workers, particularly women, tend to occupy the bottom of the global economic pyramid, with less protection and flexibility than their formal counterparts.
The attempts by the Federal Reserve Bank and Treasury Department in the United States to inject liquidity into the credit market, along with intervention by central banks in many other developed economies, is proving ineffective in responding to the global economic crisis.
Study on Impact of the Global Economic Crises on the Working Poor:
WIEGO and its partners in the Inclusive Cities project collected information on the impact of the crisis on three categories of these workers – home-based workers, street vendors, and waste pickers.
Working informally has no cushion to fall back on. The evidence strongly suggests that the global recession is pushing informal workers and their families further into impoverishment. It was the high time to have a sample survey, the representative one with the home-based workers to peep into their problem affected by the global economic crisis.
Strategy for Conducting the Study:
WIEGO provide a complete set of instructions to conduct the study consisting of holding Focus Group Discussion and Interviews with at least 12-15 home-based women workers. A meeting with over 30 workers was held to identify 15 for the FGD and Interview. These women were from Rasool Nagar, Ganda Sing Wala, District Kasur producing the following products in a position of self-employed:
- Peeling dry roots
- Winding Rope
- Chicks Making/Reed Mats (cane blind)
- Designing Chicks
A trained staff on HNP conducted focus group discussions and interviews and a useful data about these working poor was also gathered through the questionnaire.
- High trends of decrease in the order work and sale of their products have been noticed.
- The number of home-based workers (HBWs) is dropping out because of decrease in demand and profit of their products resulted into a great loss in business.
- The male workers are shifting from making Chiks at home to work as labor, during last six months to meet the ever increasing house-hold expenses.
- A great change in the demand of the products occurred due to the increase in the price of raw material and transportation.
- The export of the products of HBWs has also been reduced much due to an increase in the cost of production, transport costs and overheads.
- The load-shedding for hours has very bad affect on their business and lives.
- HBWs are most affected by this up-set in the national and international economic disaster. They have started giving more time to their work to meet their needs.
- Inflation in everything badly affected their work and earnings.
- Earning money is very hard for HBWs because they have many other household responsibilities.
- The prices of raw material have been increased 70% to 100%. That also increases the price of products. As a result, the demand of products decreases a lot.
- HBWs have specialized in Chiks (cane blinds) making only. There is no other work or skill which can be utilized for supporting family income.
- The families have reduced their expenses on food, children’s education, and health.
- The sense of insecurity is increasing.
- Poor health condition.
- The fingers of women and girls in the village are mostly injured and de-shaped due to the work they do. They just use mustard oil, a low-priced way of treatment.
- One roomed house.
- HomeNet Pakistan was the very first NGO that visited this village and addressed the issues.
- No government support in any kind is available to HBWs. They are not associated with any of the organizations to support their work. HomeNet Pakistan is the first organization that took this initiative.
- These workers need to be recognized as laborers under government labor laws, health and loan facilities should be given, their trade should be protected and better marketing facilities be arranged for them.
Challenges and Threats
- Lack of modern tools and equipment
- Dependence on middle man for raw material and sale of finished products
- Lack of access to mechanisms and micro-credit schemes
- Seasonal and irregular work
- Load shedding of electricity
- The high cost of utility items and electricity use
- Lack of access to information
- No written contracts
- Low wages
- Long hours of work
- Unhygienic working conditions
- Poor diet
The global economic recession is negatively affecting workers everywhere. Media and policy makers have focused on the rising unemployment of formal salaried workers. Little attention, however, has been paid to the impact of the crisis on informal firms and workers.
In reality, economic downturns often affect the informal economy in the same ways they affect the formal economy. Like formal wage workers, informal wage workers face loss of jobs or greater in formalization of their employment contracts. Indeed, during downturns, informal wage workers are often the first to lose their jobs.
Informal workers, particularly women, tend to occupy the bottom of the global economic pyramid, with less protection and flexibility. Informal firms and wage workers, in times of economic trouble, have no cushion to fall back on and have no option but to keep operating or working.
In brief, the global economic crisis is impacting the informal economy in many of the same ways that it is impacting the formal economy.
Major Findings of Sialkot
The home-based workers (HBWs) work at their homes or at a place that does not belong to the employer. They may work on basis of piece-rate for an employer, who can be a subcontractor, or a middleman or they can be self-employed. These workers are found equally in developed and developing countries.
The HBWs are facing the following challenges:
- Poor pay and low piece rate/wages
- Unhealthy working conditions
- Long working hours
- Unstable employment
- Absence of pensions, insurance, safety, health protection, and paid leave.
- Middleman exploitation
- Lack of access to market and marketing know-how.
Why HBWs need work
HBWs need to supplement household income. This follows by the opportunity to work at home and attend to domestic chores. The working time is flexible and their male family members object to work outside. Most of the home-based workers do not have even the basic education. All these things compel them to work at home even on very low wages.
The working place of HBWs is inadequate and shared with other household activities. This contributes to unhygienic and unhealthy environment. Most of them are dependent on the subcontractor/employer for work, raw material and marketing. Their dealings and transaction with the contractor/employer is verbal. HBWs do not come under labor/social security laws.
The global financial and economic crisis has spurred a call for rethinking economic policies. There should be a rethinking of the mainstream economic approach to the informal economy. The goal of formalization¡± should be to increase earnings and reduce risks of the working poor in the informal economy. Formalization should have three pillars¡±: appropriate regulation and fair taxation; legal and social protection; and measures to increase earnings and productivity. Further, the working poor should have a voice in economic decision-making.
The founders of Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing WIEGO believe that reducing poverty and inequality is not possible without raising the earnings and lowering the risks of those who work in the informal economy.
WIEGO held research on the Impact of the Global Economic Crisis on the Working Poor with the focus on the state of HBWs. The research was planned to compare the economic impact of the crisis on HBWs during the last six months i.e. from January to June 2009. Home-Net Pakistan was assigned to undertake an exercise to examine the impact of the global economic crisis on home-based women workers through a formal survey consisting on Focus Group Discussion followed by interviews with identified women workers.
Objects of the Study
It is important to hold an interactive dialogue with the home-based workers directly through holding Focus Group Discussion and Interviews etc to analyze and measure the changes emerged after global economic crisis, January 2009 onward. WIEGO offered a project to HomeNet Pakistan to undertake in a series of three activities with the home-based women workers.
Strategy for Conducting the Study
After a successful survey on HBWs at Kasur, HomeNet Pakistan was requested to conduct a similar study with the women stitching footballs in Sialkot. It was noticed that the women were from the age group of 10-70 mostly illiterate and married. The family size was between 6-12 members. Their working hours are 8-12 hours a day, mostly seven days a week. Their average weekly income is between Rs.1000-2000.
The facilitator of the survey led the group of 15 women through a focus group discussion of four broad questions and a series of smaller ‘prompt’ questions led participants in a structured discussion on the possible effects of the crisis.
Through a questionnaire, specific information about each participant on the global economic crisis has impacted individual workers was gathered. The questions were asked orally however those have records.
- Number of HBWs increased during last 6 months.
- Stitching football pays too little to meet expenses.
- Women are forced to work due to increase in the cost of living.
- Stitching football is a seasonal work and conducted on piece rate.
- The living standard of these HBWs has decreased due to low wages.
- The children have to work to meet their educational expenditures.
- Women are not allowed to go out of home for work.
- Women suffer aching, injury of fingers, weaken eyesight, stomach disturbance and fever while stitching footballs.
- Their work suffers due to hot weather and load-shedding.
- The order of work decreases during raining season.
- The factory provides with the main material only.
- HBWs have to do some other work including stitching cloth and rear goats to meet their expenses.
- They also do all other household chores along with the work of stitching footballs.
- The quantity and quality of food used before 6 months decreased.
- They cannot care about their health and sometimes they also had to drop their children from schools.
- These HBWs have no chance to have a happy healthy life due to their low wages.
- Government and NGOs did not do anything for HBWs except Aurat Foundation that approached them, get information about their lives.
Women and Poverty
Four important challenges confronted women in Pakistan ; increasing practical literacy, gaining access to employment opportunities at all levels in the economy, promoting change in the perception of women’s roles and status, and gaining a public voice both within and outside of the political process.
There have been various attempts at social and legal reform aimed at improving Muslim women’s lives in the subcontinent during the twentieth century. After independence, women in Pakistan continued to advocate women’s political empowerment through legal reforms. They mobilized support that led to the passage of the Muslim Personal Law of Sharia in 1948, which recognized a woman’s right to inherit all forms of property. They were also behind the futile attempt to have the government include a Charter of Women’s Rights in the 1956 constitution. The 1961 Muslim Family Laws Ordinance covering marriage and divorce, the most important socio-legal reform that they supported, is still widely regarded as empowering to women. The movement continued throughout the period of Pakistan’s political history and issues pertaining to women changed with the time but the struggle continued. Women parliamentarians and legislators over the years have recognized their role in the law-making process. Time to time legislations on issues like harassment, domestic violence, women representation have been taken up. And recently the debate of recognizing women working at home earning money should be recognized as workers/labours.
Unfortunately in a patriarchal society like ours, there is hardly any emphasis on the education of women and their participation in the economy. Here it is believed that the education of boys is more important than that of girls since the men are the ‘protectors’ of a family and provide the family with food, clothing, income, etc., while the women should take care of the household. Not only do the men try to make women feel inferior, but women themselves consider that they are only to do household chores and look after their family, while not deeming it important for themselves to acquire skills at a level where they can be as professionally competent as males are, apart from a few exceptions such as in the field of medicine or teaching.
Society must be made aware of the fact that given a chance, women can do a much better job than men in any given field. Countless examples can be found in even Pakistan that given an equal opportunity, women can certainly outdo men at any given point.A high rate of economic growth may be a necessary but not a sufficient condition for poverty reduction, primarily because the benefits do not trickle down by themselves due to skewed asset distribution that, in turn, reinforces skewed income distribution patterns.
Reinforced skewed income distribution pattern further leads to the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. If the poor get poorer, how might poverty reduction be claimed? Further, even if the trickle does trickle down, do all that we need are a few trickles to bring down poverty levels? If yes, then poverty will come down by a mere trickle and not by a sizeable 6.7 per cent even if it is only on the basis of mere caloric intake. Similarly, decrease in child mortality is not a significant enough indicator of the family size with strong implications for household poverty in the absence of gainful employment opportunities.
So, no matter how high the social sector expenditures and the rate of economic growth, we will conclude poverty reduction only when poverty will have actually reduced as measured by the output and not by the inputs or a variable of economic growth remotely linked to poverty reduction.
And, this output is to be measured by the percentage of people below the poverty line and the poverty gap for which purpose the subsistence level of income needs to be known which official information is keenly awaited.
For high economic growth rate to make a difference in terms of poverty levels, ‘sufficient’ conditions need to be created. As above, these ‘sufficient conditions’ comprise not just the social sectors, roads, electricity, and sewage but the entire gamut of institutional, structural, and attitudinal changes that will enable sharing of the fruits of growth.
More often, poorest women engage in work at home and produce and sell manufactured goods to a middleman for compensation. More and more women in urban and rural areas have engaged in such activities during the 1990s, although to avoid being shamed few families willingly admit that women contribute to the family economically. This cadre of work force is termed as home worker or home based worker. Hence, there is little information about the work women do. On the basis of the predominant fiction that most women do no work other than their domestic chores, the government has been hesitant to adopt overt policies to increase women’s employment options and to provide legal support for women’s labor force participation.
The poor from the rural areas migrate to urban areas in search of a source of living and eke out an existence that they have difficulty doing in their homeland in addition to the oppression they experience at the hands of the farm-lords. Can we call this migration some kind of transformation in the country’s socio-economic life?
As the migrants create pressure on meager urban resources, the urban centers get ruralised instead of getting developed further. Unfair asset and income distribution in rural areas will only aggravate rural subsistence and will not be a rural-urban transformation, some flyovers/underpasses and well-carpeted roads for the fast-moving 4-wheelers of the urban wealthy elite notwithstanding. This imparity in distribution of resources among the humans is continuous force of frustration leading to futile social and economic conditions and building gap among between the various sectors and classes.