Policy Process in Pakistan

The Journey towards the solution of the miseries of the Women Home-Based Workers, at South Asian level, started with the Katmandu Declaration in 2000.

In 2000, UNIFEM held its first Regional Conference on women home-based workers in Kathmandu that produced famous ‘Kathmandu Declaration. HNSA was set up as a result of that Declaration. Since then, UNIFEM and Indian trade union SEWA have worked to organize women home-based workers. HNSA has federated networks of organizations of home-based workers that includes over 600 organizations in the five countries, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri-Lanka. It has emerged as a dynamic and vibrant network representing over 3, 00,000 home based workers from the region.


The Journey towards the solution of the miseries of the Women Home-Based Workers, at South Asian level, started with the Katmandu Declaration in 2000. The vision of HomeNet South Asia was intrinsically connected with the objectives of Millennium Development Goals (MDG); eradication of extreme poverty/hunger and the reduction in poverty among women.

In many developing countries, and lately increasingly so in many industrialized countries, the vast scale and rate of growth of the informal sector presents a dilemma and a challenge for governments, social partners and the civil society alike. A dilemma, as the informal sector encompasses employment situations which not only differ from those in the formal sector, but also infringe upon established rules and laws.

A challenge, as it absorbs a large and growing fraction of the labor force and provides a “safety net” for the poor that find themselves excluded from formal employment and income opportunities. The growing “informalization of the economy has vastly contributed towards raising the number of Women Home-Based Workers employed informally.

While the data about informal activities are somewhat unreliable, there is consensus that the informal sector is steadily growing in almost all developing countries so much so that it was widely accepted at the South Asian level that there is no policy or legislation for the informal sector specifically about the women workers.

After the Delhi Policy Conference (January 2007) HomeNets started the initiative directed towards framing policy for the Women Home-Based Workers. HomeNet Pakistan, along with its partners; and most significantly Sungi Foundation and Aurat Foundation, took lead and collaborated extensively with the Ministry of Woman Development. The ministry organized a two-day consultation on the status of Women Home-Based Workers. The consultation, organized on June, 2007, included all the stakeholders across the country.

The initiative of the consultation was in line with the agenda of a HomeNet South Asia’s plan on Social Protection for Home-Based Workers of South Asia. At the other hand, it was a follow-up and reflection of the commitment of Ministry of Women Development. The Ministry of Women’s Development (MoWD) was highly commended for taking the lead in addressing this issue and supporting HomeNet and Sungi Foundation for taking up the coordination and preparing the draft of the National policy on Home-Based Women Workers.

One of the objectives of drafting the National Policy for Home-Based Women Workers was to bring in the lime-light the real number of the female working force in the informal economy of Pakistan. For this, a series of National, Provincial and District consultations were held all over country involving stakeholders and Working women. Their suggestions and demands were incorporated in the draft before, finally, put it up before the group of experts and major stake holders that was gathered at South Asian consultation in Islamabad on 14-15 October 2008.

Indeed it’s a big achievement after elongated and strenuous one and a half year endeavors of the teams at National, Provincial and District levels along with the stake-holders. With the coordinated and passionate efforts of all, we were able to achieve the first step of our target. HomeNet Pakistan graciously acknowledges the support, collaboration, and partnership of Sungi Development Foundation, Aurat Foundation, UNIFEM, ILO and HomeNet South Asia in making the whole process attainable.

The Process

Ministry of women development in collaboration with UNIFEM involved Sungi Development Foundation to take up coordination role and prepare draft National policy on HBW in 2007. Simultaneously in the same year 2007 Sungi Development foundation, HomeNet Pakistan and Aurat Foundation along with the partners organizations took policy outlines as the guideline and in a series of provincial and district consultations gathered suggestions and recommendations form the organizations working with HBW and HBWs themselves. Those suggestions and recommendations were incorporated in the draft of the policy. The draft was shared with the district partners of 68 districts and lawyers at various stages. At the national level it was discussed and shared with the working group formed at Federal level. And after being discussed at various level the final (8th draft) of the policy was handed over to the MoWD on 6 Nov 2009.

During the whole process of policy formulation there was a continuous debate on the definition of HBW .Also lack of inter ministerial clarity and coordination was a source of delays. Labor department at any level was not ready to accept the NP. Their critical stance was that in whole issue of informal labor there is no clear cut definition for the HBWs. The registration and regulation was another critique that came up. Government department’s especially labor department was not ready to have any dialogues on C 177. During the whole process of advocacy for the policy approximately 24 to 26 months the interaction with government departments proved to be an ice breaker and new openings started coming up one by one . The Population and census organization announced the Census in March 2009 and it was a very good sign this time 9 columns have been added with regard to the work of HBWs and especially women. This again is an outcome of 10-11 years advocacy of CSOs and in the last census of 1998 Aurat Foundation highlighted that if women are counted, their work should also be counted. At various level consultations of PCO this point was ensured since the work done by women at home is directly related with HBWs work for remuneration. Thereafter at different platforms of CSO and government this point was shared . However due to the unstable political situation and military interventions in Swat and Wazirsatan Census were postponed and are expected in March 2010(tentative dates as GoP still has to announce the final dates).

ILO Pakistan is also very much actively involved in the advocacy for C 177 and have formed a working group at Federal level with the Federal Ministry of Labor , Ministry of women development , Gender Reform Action Plan , National Commission on the Status of women (NCSW) CIDA , ILO Partners and CSO of which HNP is also a part. The meetings were held and HNP attended 3 meetings. The Federal Secretary of Labor chaired all the 3 meetings held in Islamabad. The outcomes of the meetings was an opportunity for putting across the issue of HBWs to the labor department itself and the problems of not having and statistics available at the federal level. This close group meetings opened door of opportunity and softened the labor attitude towards the HBWs issue. It was at this point that the initiatives of the National policy was shared with the Secretary Labor (ILO Pakistan was also a partner to the policy process in Pakistan. The South Asian Consultation held in October 2008 was also funded by ILO along with HNSA and UNIFEM).

Partner organizations highlighted the issue of Policy and C 177 at district level forums. Booklets for ILO C177 translated in Urdu were printed and reprinted for dissemination among the network and also with Govt. Also at various forums and meetings parliamentarians Like Mehnaz Rafi(Ex MNA ) Faiza Malik (MPA Punjab) also raised the points of C 177 and its importance with regard to HBWs and their recognition as workers.

By the time policy was being finalized various organizations had taken up the policy issue for HBWs. Labor department consolidation of 72 labor laws is under way in Pakistan since last 4 years (not yet disclosed) and as the HBWs demand for registration as workers become prominent labor department tuned their ears on it and so much so that on 6 Nov 2009, federal MoWD handed over the policy to Federal Ministry for labor and manpower. The senior person representing the Federal Secretary assured that the ministry would seriously overview the policy for the HBWs and invited the CSO and especially HNP to sit with the labor department and review the new consolidated laws in light where the policy recommendations can be incorporated in the 5 consolidated labor laws. UNIFEM has agreed to hold consultations and with Labor department and provide all the possible support.

Advocacy Intervention in Punjab

Ever since the policy work started in 2007 HNP Lahore office (head office) had involved its partners in the consultative process and also the parliamentarians had been involved in the formulation. Every step and achievement at had been shared. Individual meetings with MPAs namely Dr. Mussrat Hassan, Faiza Malik, Tehmina Dultana (MNA), Yasmine Rehman (MNA) and the resolution for the HBWs were shared. As a result of the constant advocacy finally resolution in the Punjab assembly was moved and unanimously passed. Throughout the process the constant source of strength were the stakeholders like lawyers, member organizations and HBWs themselves. Officials form the Directorate of women development, federal ministry of women development, Gender Reform Action Plan (GRAP).

Focus group discussions with lawyers and stakeholders was an entry point to pave conducive environment for dialogues with lawyers , trade unions and labor people to incorporate the issue of HBWs in the agenda of TU and consolidation of labour laws. The advocacy meetings with the stakeholders in Gujranwala, Sialkot, and NWFP helped in reaching out to masses. South Asian National consultation held in 2008 was the event where the minster for women development form Baluchistan , Sindh , government officials form ministry of women development , labour, law , organizations form district , ILO, UNIFEM, CIDA participated and gave valuable inputs in the draft policy which helped in refining the policy. The policy draft is an outcome of a series of district consultations held in 68 districts of Pakistan and the consultative process was facilitated not only by HNSA through (FNV) but other partners like SUNGI, ROOTs for Equity, UNIFEM, and ILO were the key partners. As a strategy of HNP all the resources available for the policy were clubbed in and it gave a very positive result in the end. The process of awareness raising, advocacy was also a part of the whole process. Partners at various levels came to a consensus regarding the Policy for HBWs. Lawyers and trade unions also become a source of strength as they were able to put across the issue of HBWs at various platforms.

In Sindh also HNP through its partners held stakeholders meetings and Provincial consultations to share the main points of the Policy and to develop synergies in order to take forward the issue in the right direction. A number of individual meetings (no budget activities) were held with the Sindh minister for women development and other MPAs of political parties in order to build consensus. In NWFP province due to the military intervention and political situation the process of advocacy was not done properly. However, contacts and relations with the member parliamentarians were strengthened in various other occasion and activities held in the Federal capital by UNIFEM.

Series of television interviews and columns in local newspapers helped a lot in advocating the policy and issues of HBWs in country.

In Baluchistan During the year of 2009, coordination of some female parliamentarians was really appreciable who showed their commitment towards the cause of women rights. We feel honored to mention their names i.e Ms. Ghazala Gola, Ms Rubina Irfan, Ms Roqayya Hashmi, Ms. Shahida Rauf and Ms Nasreen Rehman khethran. They all are committed to receive and proceed any bill and resolution on women issue from HNP/Aurat foundation in future.

Second half of the year remained quite hard in terms of interaction with the parliamentarians due to the extremely alarmed security situation of the city. Politicians were continuously receiving threats from extremist groups that resulted in assassination of Provincial education minister. More the husband of ex district member/ member of NCSW Ms. Rukhsana Ahmad Ali was also assassinated by religious extremists. The family of Ms. Farah Hamid( political activist/ex councilor)has shifted to Punjab because of continuous threats. Brother in law of Ms. Roqayya Hashmi was assassinated. This situation compelled the other parliamentarians to confine their mobility from the formal and informal gatherings. Any how AF could interact with the parliamentarians because of sustain standing with them through corner and individual meetings.

Challenges during the implementation of Programme

The major challenges faced during the framing of policy

  • Bringing the organizations under one umbrella and consensus building on the policy guidelines among the partners.
  • The definition of HBWs or home worker has been a constant dispute. Govt official, public representatives and even at some places CSO were unable to grasp the definition. The ambiguity with regard to the exact definition of a HBW still exists.
  • Non availability of Data of the HBWs
  • It was very hard to convince the labour department on the definition. It is a country wide challenge and is foreseen in future also . This is merely because of their lack of understanding and un clarity on the issue . The labour department at some place like in Baluchistan and Sindh and even in Punjab categorically rejected the definition of HBWs and home workers and confused it with domestic workers.
  • The formal sector is entertained but informal sector is neglected in the labor laws.
  • Ownership of the policy by the labour department.
  • Inter ministerial transfers and an administrative change of officials is a serious issues.
  • Registration of HBWs is a question mark with the changing local government scenario in Pakistan.
  • Change of government and political will of present govt. There are Political reasons and till date we do not have a Federal Minister for Women Development. The PM has the portfolio with him. Also in Punjab; a province with largest population and 36 districts, there is no Minster for women development. This government came as result of Feb 2008 elections. It indeed shows the government priority to the women development in Pakistan.
  • Too much involvement of the donors in 2008 and establishment of parallel groups. This created a tensed situation for HNP with regard to bringing all the organizations under one common consensus. Some organizations moved a little further by presenting social protection bill in the parliament before the final launch or presentation of the NP for HBWs. A lot of opposition came for the social protection bill within the network.
  • Implementation and registration of HBWs still is a major challenge.
  • The rolling back of Local government system in Pakistan is a major challenge at the moment.

Advocacy Intervention in Balochistan

From the Platform of HomeNet Pakistan

All Baluchistan political Women forum was established at the end of 1998. The forum was established for the joint actions for the solution of Women concerning issues and capacity building of Women activists in order to enhance their capacity to participate more affectively within their respective political parties.

This initiative of Aurat Foundation with the platform of HomeNet Pakistan remained very successful. A very talented and experienced lot of Women leaders emerged in the political parties. These leaders represented their political parties in national assembly, provincial assemblies and all district assemblies on women reserved seats.

The regular and continuous interaction of Aurat Foundation Quetta with Women members of provincial assembly resulted in a very positive and supporting response towards the issues of women concern. These responses and support gave an edge too to the activities and mandate of HomeNet Pakistan (HNP) in Baluchistan.

The struggle of advocacy for the issues of HNP formally started in 2006 that resulted in form of strong support for making the national policy for HBWs from the Government and Non Government Organizations. Tabling and approval of resolution on the rights of Home-Based Workers (HBWs) by the provincial assembly in May 2007 was the first initiative from the Baluchistan towards addressing the concerns of HBWs.

Ministry of Women’s Development and Social Welfare itself remained involved to conduct different activities in collaboration with HNP. This included exhibitions and exposure visits (EXPO Karachi, BRSP festival) in which participation of HBWWs was remarkable in terms of capacity enhancement, linkages development and financial benefits.

It was the great success of HNP Baluchistan that Ministry of Women Development and Social Welfare remained supportive in advocating the issues of HNP and owned its work. For attaining the purpose several individual and corner meetings have been conducted with the parliamentarians.

In 2007 and 2008 for the advocacy purpose media advocacy by the HNP Balochistan was done in profound manner. A series of programs for advocacy were recorded / on aired on different TV and Radio channels (PTV- Bolan, Saama, Duniya, News Express voice of America, FM radio 01). In all these programs not only the staff of HNP participated but different stakeholders of HNP became the part of these programs also, including the Minister for Women Development Ms. Ghazala Gola, Ms. Rukhsana Ahmed (member of NCSW), Ms. Farah Khalid union member, Ms. Shaida Parveen district member, Ms. Zulekhan Raisani (HBW), Mr. Azam Zarkoon expert for labor laws. This media advocacy played a vital role in highlighting the notion of HNP at Masses.

A series of advocacy round table meetings were held with different pressure groups e.g. Media group, group of Political activists, parliamentarians and group of different civil society agents.

Strong advocacy interventions held for tabling another resolution for making and implementation of national policy and bringing amendments in labor laws. In this perspective meetings were held with Ms. Ghazala Gola (Minister for Women Development) Ms. Rubina Irfan (Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs), Ms. Roqayya Hashmi (Minister for Inter Provincial Coordination), Ms. Nasreen rehaman Khaethran (MPA) Ms. Hussan Jan Baloch (MPA), Ms. Raheela durrani (MPA), Ms. Shahida Rauf (Advisor to CM), Mr. Nazir Khan Panezai (Secretary to Speaker), Mr. Muhammad Khan Mengal (Secretary Assembly). For the purpose of submitting the copy of resolution to the assembly, time to time visits were made to the provincial assembly. Even the procedure of signing of resolution by ministers was flowed by HNP staff, Quetta.

  • Most of the parliamentarians greet on making and implementation of National policy.
  • All the women parliamentarians made commitment to welcome any bill, resolution for tabling and approval by assembly (facilitated by HNP)
  • A resolution on rights of HBWs again passed by the provincial assembly with strong stress on making amendments in labor laws.

During the year 2009, the coordination of some female parliamentarians was really appreciable who showed their commitment towards the cause of women rights. We feel honored to mention their names i.e. Ms. Ghazala Gola, Ms Rubina Irfan, Ms Roqayya hashmi, Ms. Shahida Rauf and Ms Nasreen Rehman khethran. They all are committed to proceed and receive any bill and resolution on women issue from HNP/Aurat foundation in future.

Second half of the year remained quite hard in terms of interaction with the parliamentarians due to the extremely alarmed security situation of the city. Politicians were continuously receiving threats from extremist groups that resulted in assassination of Provincial education minister. More the husband of ex-district member/member of NCSW Ms. Rukhsana Ahmad Ali was also assassinated by religious extremists. The family of Ms. Farah Hamid (political activist/ex-councilor) has shifted to Punjab because of continuous threats. Brother in law of Ms. Roqayya Hashmi was assassinated. This situation compelled the other parliamentarians to confine their mobility from the formal and informal gatherings. Anyhow AF managed to interact with the parliamentarians because of sustain standing with them through corner and individual meetings.

The National Policy Brief on Home-based Workers

Ministry of Women’s Development in Collaboration with Ministry of Labour and Manpower

The National Policy on Home-based Workers (NPHBWs) has been developed by the Government of Pakistan on the basis of the feedback from stakeholders and several working groups. The NPHBWs is intended to guide and support Provincial Governments including Azad Jummu and Kashmir and local bodies in developing their own strategies, plans and programmes for the protection and promotion of the rights and benefits of home-based workers (HBWs), particularly women home-based workers (WHBWs). Most of the WHBWs are piece rate workers involved in manufacturing and post-manufacturing tasks, such as: embroidery, carpet weaving and handlooms, wood work and other handicrafts, bangle making, dates cleaning and packing prawn peeling and packing and many other similar tasks.

The Government of Pakistan (GOP) is not unmindful of the fact that (HBWs) – estimated to be 8.52 million; 65% amongst them women – are neither covered by any labour rights /labour legislation nor definition of the “HBWs is part of any statute. Therefore, they are unable to access the services, facilities, rights and benefits, including a fair remuneration under national laws. The Government, in accordance with its Constitutional obligations and international commitments, hereby reiterates its commitment to addressing the concerns of HBWs on a priority basis, immediately within the resources at its disposal, and subsequently through further resource mobilization, in a collaborative, consultative and coordinated manner.

This Policy reaffirms Government’s commitment to bring the laws and regulations concerning HBWs in Pakistan into conformity with the Constitutional provisions; and common standards and principles developed by international human rights treaties and ILO Conventions.

The goals of the policy is to recognize and accept HBWs in their own right through legislative and administrative actions; accord legal equality; focus on their needs, concerns and demands through an institutional approach of gender mainstreaming at all levels. The GOP shall recognize that HWBs are a special category of workers that include: a) person who works within the home boundaries, or in any other premises of his/her choice, but excluding the premises of the employer’s or contractor’s workplace; b) a person who works at home for remuneration or monetary returns; and c) a person who is self-employed or does piece-rate, own-account, or contract work, which results in a product or services as specified by the employer/contractor.

The definition of HBWs does not include: i) a person with employee status who occasionally performs his/her employee work at home, rather than at his/her usual workplace; ii ) a home-based worker who has the degree of autonomy and of the economic independence necessary to be considered an independent self-employed worker under national laws, regulations or court decisions; iii) a domestic worker, since he/she does not work in his/her own home; and iv) a person working, outside his/her home boundaries, in the rural or non-formal sectors of agriculture, livestock, forestry, fisheries, etc., since he/she is still termed as “unpaid agricultural family helper.

The key policy measures of the NPHBWs with the focus on WHBWs include: i) Definition and Equality of Legal Status, ii) Equality of Treatment and Wages, iii) Skills Training Enhancement, iv) Access to Credit, Land Ownership and Assets, and v) Access to Marketing Channels and Linkages

The Government will ensure in collaboration with other concerned stakeholders that skills training enhancement initiatives for HBWs are undertaken on an outreach basis to their villages and urban slum settlements to address the constraints of mobility and poverty and the “triple burden of work in the context of WHBWs.

The tendency to forcibly bring HBWs to designated working centres in urban or peri-urban areas will be discouraged.

The Government shall further endeavour to see that HBWs, particularly the WHBWs: i) gain easy access to comparatively cheaper credit through several ongoing programmes, ii) their issues of easy access to markets for the products will be effectively tackled, thus eliminating the fruit of their labour denied in this area through the malpractices of the ‘intermediaries and ‘middlepersons, iii) non-industrial handicraft goods are promoted through purchase and utilization in public sector offices as affirmative action (e.g. public sector office furniture, furnishings, fixtures, stationery items, official awards, prizes and gifts), iv) they will enjoy the core labour standards (CLSs) along with the rights and entitlements in addition to all rights and benefits available to other wage earners performing the similar work, under the existing or any futuristic laws and regulations, and v) social security benefits currently applicable only to workers in the formal organized sector of employment are extended through enactment or amendment in the laws relating to Employees Social Security Institutions (ESSIs) in the provinces.

The social security laws include (but are not limited to) the a) old-age pension funds, b) workers welfare funds, c) general and reproductive health services for workers and their families, maternity care, child care and education, d) death, disability and accident insurance benefits, d) housing, e) legal counselling services, and f) last but not least, support for disaster risk reduction, preparedness, mitigation, reconstruction and rehabilitation. Insurance of HBWs against accident, disability and death shall also be the mandatory responsibility of the employers.

The Government shall devise a mechanism for the mandatory and free registration of all HBWs, in all public and private sectors of the economy, especially industries, through a tiered system at the Federal, Provincial, District, Tehsil/Taluka and Union Council levels. The details of this mechanism will be formulated in consultation with all the relevant federal line Ministries and provincial Departments, in order to avoid duplication and to promote coordination. Registration will automatically entitle HBWs to social protection and insurance provisions.

The Government shall undertake appropriate measures to include HBWs in the decennial Population Censuses, Labour Force Surveys and all other national data collection exercises, which will be disaggregated by gender and rural-urban location, especially all research on living standards and poverty measurement.

The Government shall strive to facilitate retail platforms for the products of HBWs throughout the SAARC region and shall strive to encourage its peer SAARC Governments to collectively negotiate with the OECD countries for preferential or zero tariffs on the South Asian HBWs products collectively in order to protect the communities of HBWs in each country from the demerits of the globalization, which are resulting in further exploitation by reduction of wages, flexibilization and feminization of labour, insecurity or termination of work due to cheaper labour easily available elsewhere, and through high tariffs.

The main implementing agencies for this National Policy shall work under the mandate of the Provincial Governments in close collaboration with the Local Governments; and they will be guided by the national Plan of Action and their respective Provincial Plan of Action. The Action Plans may also suggest or establish inter-sectoral and inter-ministerial steering group, including representation from the national/Pakistani civil society organisations, at the federal and provincial, to oversee the implementation of this Policy.

The Federal and Provincial Governments shall prepare comprehensive Plan of Action for implementing the NPHBWs; it shall be widely shared and consultations held at the provincial and national levels to ensure its feasibility and acceptability to all. Once the various stakeholders have endorsed it, its implementation shall start, using time-bound, results-oriented and objectively verifiable indicators.

The national and provincial Plan of Action shall clearly elaborate the rights and benefits of the HBWs, roles and responsibilities of Federal, Provincial and Local Government authorities, in addition to the functions of the other stakeholders. The Plans will also lay down the enforcement mechanisms of implementation of this Policy, particularly regarding access to credit and markets, and the forums and processes of conflict resolution.

The Federal and Provincial Governments shall set up inter-ministerial and cross-sectoral autonomous bodies, at the federal and provincial level, on the basis of public and private partnership (PPP) to coordinate the efforts to be undertaken for the implementation of this Policy. These ‘Policy Steering and Coordination Committees (PSCCs) shall be empowered to carry out the required overseeing and monitoring of the functions of various stakeholders, including the roles and responsibilities of respective Governments, as well as those of employers or intermediaries of the HBWs.

Cognizant of the competence of ILO in developing standards and helping member countries in implementation, the Government would continue working with ILO in mainstreaming the HBWs. It will also seek cooperation and collaboration with other UN specialized agencies including UNIFEM.

Resolution on Home Based Workers in Pakistan

Presented in Punjab Assembly On September, 2009

This August house is mindful of the fact that there are almost 8.52 million home-based workers (HBWs) in Pakistan. The contribution of these HBWs in Pakistan’s economy is noteworthy. For instance, the football industry alone, which mainly relies upon HBWs, earns nearly fifty million dollars in foreign exchange for Pakistan.

The HBWs are representing 70% of the total women work force in the country and are playing an important role in the field of carpet weaving, wood work, hand looms, embroidery, bangle making and many other activities of cleaning and packing different materials.

This house is also aware of the fact that the country has to fulfill its constitutional obligation and international commitments in implementation of different labor laws. The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the protection of rights, non-discrimination at work place, elimination of child labor as well as bonded labor, fixation of minimum wages, the net of social security and working hours of the home based workers are the issues needed to be resolved immediately, urgently and surely on priority basis.

The Article 11 of CEDAW states clearly

Article 11

  1. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, the same rights, in particular:
    (a) The right to work as an inalienable right of all human beings;
    (b) The right to the same employment opportunities;
    (c) The right to free choice of profession and employment, the right to promotion, job security and all benefits and conditions of service and the right to receive vocational training and retraining, including apprenticeships, advanced vocational training and recurrent training;
    (d) The right to equal remuneration, including benefits, and to equal treatment in respect of work of equal value, as well as equality of treatment in the evaluation of the quality of work;
    (e) The right to social security, particularly in cases of retirement, unemployment, sickness, invalidity and old age and other incapacity to work, as well as the right to paid leave;
    (f) The right to protection of health and to safety in working conditions, including the safeguarding of the function of reproduction;

In accordance to the fulfillment to CEDAW this house resolves that the encouragement to the HBWs would help to grow the country’s economy. The recognition of home based workers in different categories of labor laws and allocation of funds for their betterment and development would help Pakistan to be a prosperous country.

This house therefore proposes that a campaign be started at the union council level to register the home based workers. This registration will enable us to locate the areas where the largest number of these workers is located.

This information can be used to establish small learning centers in these areas that can perform the following functions:

  • Provide small loans to these workers, so that they can buy the material for their work and the middle man/middle woman does not take the major portion of their profit.
  • Provide literacy as well as skill trainings to enhance their abilities.
  • Provide some health and legal cover.

Improving the life and working for the welfare of this silent work force will certainly help towards the welfare of Pakistan.

Punjab Assembly for protection of the Rights of Home-Based Workers

By Babar Dogar, Lahore.

THE Punjab Assembly on Wednesday passed a unanimous resolution for protecting the rights of domestic workers amid strong reservation of PPP female parliamentarian Azma Zahid Bukhari who objected that another female PPP parliamentarian Faiza Malik, being a parliamentary secretary, could not present the resolution before the House.

PPP female parliamentarian Faiza Malik moved the resolution before the House regarding protection of the Rights of Home-Based Workers. PPP female parliamentarian Azma Zahid Bukhari made a point before the Deputy Speaker Rana Mashud that Faiza Malik could not present the resolution as per rules because she was a parliamentary secretary. She demanded the Deputy Speaker allow any other female parliamentarian to present the resolution but the Deputy Speaker read out the rules and made it clear to Ms Azma that any parliamentarian from the House could move a resolution and there was no bar upon the parliamentary secretary.

Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan also intervened and stated that there was no restriction on ministers and parliamentary secretaries regarding presentation of private resolutions in the House. He said he being the law minister had moved private resolutions as well.

But Azma Zahid insisted in vain without quoting rules that she would not let Faiza Malik to present the resolution. The Deputy Speaker tried to convince her by saying that it did not look nice that she was opposing her party colleague who was presenting a public welfare resolution. Nevertheless, Azma Bukhari was adamant that she had read the rules which did not permit a parliamentary secretary to move a resolution, adding that she would have no objection if any other female parliamentarian presented the resolution. She pleaded that heaven would not fall if Faiza would not present the resolution. Finally, the Deputy Speaker snubbed her and directed Faiza Malik to present the resolution.

The resolution states: This session of the Punjab Assembly is determined to protect the rights of 8.52 million the Rights of Home-Based Workers major portion of which comprised women and appreciates their role in the economy of the country. These domestic workers represent 70 per cent of the total population of women. These workers are associated with diverse domestic industries, including football and carpet manufacturing industry, woodworks, handlooms, embroidery and packing of different types of goods. This session recognises the need of effective laws for protecting the rights of these workers. This house understands that the problems like protecting the rights of domestic workers, indiscriminate treatment at workplaces, child labour, forced labour, implementation of minimum wage policy, access to social security services and work timetable need immediate attention and solution. This house recommends the provincial and federal governments for adopting immediate measures for the solution of these problems of domestic workers with the objective of improving economy. The policy to include domestic workers in the net of labour laws and reserving funds for their progress and improvement would help making Pakistan a prosperous country. This session recommends that for launching a campaign to register domestic workers at the Union Council level for effective execution of their welfare project.

After the unanimous passage of the resolution, Faiza Malik thanked the House particularly Dr Musarrat Hasan and Shabina Riaz who assisted her in writing the draft of the resolution. She deplored that some elements within the assembly tried to spoil her efforts and the environment of the House.

The Punjab Assembly also disposed of a number of an adjournment motion besides making PPP parliamentarian Hasan Murtaza and PML-Q ís Bushra Gerdezi members of the Education Committee to monitor private schools.


At a Glance

Mission & Vision

South Asia has one of the largest concentrations of the poor in the world. Nearly a billion people in about 180 million households are constrained to live in abject poverty. Pakistan is no exception where absolute poverty is experienced by about 30% of population with a national poverty line of Rs.670 per capita per month in 1998-99. Akhuwat is one of the organizations that are working towards this effort. The main highlights of Akhuwat are:

  • Loans as little as ten thousand rupees are given to support an entire family
  • Amount is recovered in a year to help another family
  • Loan processing fee of Rs 500 per loan only
  • True help of poor by helping them stand on their feet
  • Circulation of money in economy


To achieve its vision Akhuwat runs two types of Program:

  • Microfinance programme for increasing income of the poor:
  • Group-Based Loans
  • Individual Lending
  • Rural Credit Program
  • Social development programme for improving the quality of life of the poor:
  • Education
  • Health
  • Legal Aid


  • Organizing women, in particular, and men in general into socially viable community groups called Self Help Groups (SHGs).
  • Capacity building/training of the organized groups with a view to make them self-reliant.
  • Providing Micro Finance services to the poor organized through SHG.
  • Creating avenues for self-employment and broadening the scope of opportunities available to the poor.
  • Linking Self-Help Groups (SHGs) with other stakeholders, organizations and agencies, which are committed for the uplift of the poor.
  • Provision of micro credit services to those poor who are unable to be organized into Self-Help Groups (SHGs)

Mapping Exercise by HNP

Home-Based Workers (Survey Report 2009)

Fifty percent of country’s population consists of women, but their contribution in economic, political and social sectors is not proportional. Concentrated efforts have been underway from civil society and government sector to rectify and improve the situation. HomeNet Pakistan believes in providing equal opportunities to women without discrimination, and that is why its interventions are skewed towards the marginalized segment of the society i.e. women. Out of the above-mentioned proportion of the population, approximately 80 percent of the women are employed in the informal sector. In spite of their worthy contribution in the National economy, their work still remains invisible and less rewarding in monetary terms. The purpose of this study is to list down HBWs and HBW Organizations (HBWOs) in Lahore District so as to get first hand knowledge about the problems being faced by them and make strategies to replicate this exercise on a National level.

The designed Baseline Survey intended to identify the urban HBWs and HBWOs. The study would help map the HBWs and HBWOs working in the informal sector in the 9 towns of district Lahore. It would also help HomeNet Pakistan in its research on the urban policies and would serve as a baseline for catering the whole issue of urbanization and increase in the informal sector and link up with HBWs.Objectives

  • To collect comprehensive and valid data about HBWs and HBWOs in district Lahore so as to identify their association with one another.
  • To asses the level of participation and role of HBWs in their organization for their empowerment and to organize them to get their due share.


The research design was finalized by the team of HomeNet Pakistan in close consultation with town coordinators of Lahore city. Meetings were arranged with coordinators to further clarify organizational point of view regarding the research objectives. All types of women HBWs were included in the study however, the works of HBWs were categorized in 11 basic categories i.e. Stitching and embroidery, pottery, hand work, leather work, woodwork, food items, electric appliances, parts of vehicles, packaging and binding. Each category included a list of possible works. The HBWs were the main research focus as the objective of the study was to collect data regarding the nature of their work and to analyze that has their productivity helped them in enhancing the quality of their lives.

Eight towns of District Lahore, namely, Shalimar and Wahga Town, Nishter and Gulberg Town, Data Ganj Baksh Town and Ravi Town and Aziz Bhatti Town and Samanabad Town were selected for the research.

Since the objective was to get input from existing HBWs and HBWOs Random Sampling procedure was used for this research. A sample is a subject chosen from a population for investigation. A random sample is one chosen by a method involving an unpredictable component. A total sample of 200 HBWs and 100 HBWOs was decided by the research team while keeping in mind the research objectives.

Two structured questionnaires were designed that were administered to a sample of HBWs and HBWOs in order to get feedback on the research objectives. The questionnaires contained a combination of open and close-ended questions. The pre-testing of the questionnaires resulted in a few modifications and responses were then gathered from the community. In all 158 personal interviews of HBWs were carried out while only one HBWO was interviewed.

Overall HNP team supervised the whole process and planned field visits accordingly however, in order to effectively carry out the event; responsibilities were distributed among different team members.

Time lines were finalized from data collection to the submission of final draft of report and it was assumed that the whole process will take 4 months time starting from August 2009.

Limitations of the Study

  • It was feared that HNP may not be able to get hold of as many as 100 HBWOs and was subsequently proven at the time of data collection when only one form of HBWO was received. As this sample questionnaire could not represent the population that is why this part of the research was not taken any further.
  • 158 HBWs were interviewed however, the sample size was 200 respondents.
  • In spite of the pretesting of the questionnaire, their still remained some ambiguity in the flow of the questions that were asked from the respondents.
  • The survey team was briefed on the filling of questionnaires but in spite of that mistakes were made by them that were taken care of during data cleaning and sorting.


  • In total 158 HBWWs were interviewed. Their Age Group distribution revealed that majority of them was between 16-30 years old (54%).
  • 77% of the respondents were above the age of 20 however, 70% of these respondents have got the National Identity Cards (NIC). 67% of the respondents who have got the NIC are registered voters. However, surprisingly 74% of the respondents who have got NIC claimed that they have voted in the elections.
  • 55% were married, 35% were unmarried while 7% and 3% were divorced and widowed, respectively.
  • 70% of the respondents are living in Unit family type.
  • The average family size was told by 122 respondents (77% of the total respondents) was 8 persons per household irrespective of the type of their family.
  • The Educational backgrounds of the respondents showed that majority of them were illiterate (44%). Only 9% of the respondents have studied beyond matriculation.
  • 82% of the respondents reported that they have not joined any organization. Out of the 18% who have joined any organization majority belongs to Bullah Shah Foundation. The role of these respondents in the organization is not much significant and is generally restricted to the collection and delivery of work that they receive from the organization.
  • 43% of the respondents who have joined an organization told that they have role in decision making in their respective organizations. Further probing into the matter revealed that these respondents have generally attended events during which some decisions were made by the management.
  • While responding to the question related to the acquisition of skill training from any formal or informal institution only 18% respondents told that they have taken skill training while others are just doing their work on the basis of ‘learning by doing or through the experience of their elders at home.
  • 89% of the respondents admitted that they are compelled to do work in order to run their home.
  • Majority (67%) of respondents are new in the loop of home-based workers since they are in this arena for not more than five years. 18% respondents are working for the last 6-10 years while 15% are quite old in their fields with an experience of more than 10 years.
  • In response to the question that whether their income has improved over the years, approximately 52% respondents answered positively.
  • Out of the 28 respondents who are associated with any organization almost 79% reported that their respective organizations are providing them work.
  • On an overall basis 45% of the respondents get work at home, 47% had to go by themselves to get work and 8% did not responded to this question.
  • While informing about their workplace, 86% women workers are home based, 12% did not responded to the question and 2% work at any place other than their home. 44% of the respondents are spending 6-8 hours daily on their income generating activities.
  • The ages of these helpers vary from10 years to more than 40 years. The most common relations that are helping are generally daughters or sisters. Majority of the co-workers (75%) are below the age of 20. 45% of the co-workers are between the age of 10-15 years.
  • The mode of repayment for majority of the respondents (37%), as reported by them, is on a monthly basis. However, 33% are getting return of their efforts on a weekly basis while the remaining 31% are on daily wages.
  • Out of the 55% respondents who are married, 83% told that their husbands are also working to support the family. 94% of these HBWs are getting money from their husbands to look after the day-to-day affairs of the family.
  • In response to a very interesting question that whether HBWs want to get work directly from the market 48% HBWs answered in a clear ‘No. 37% answered in yes while 15% were not sure what to say and therefore, remained silent on this question.
  • Only 6% of the respondents have taken micro credit to support their micro enterprises.
  • None of the HBWs have ever heard of or benefited by services like social security, health card or EOBI. However, 6% of the respondents told that they have personally got themselves insured.
  • 32% of the respondents are living on rent and their socio-economic status could be well assessed by the amount of rent that they are paying. 41% of them are paying Rs.1,000-2,000 per month as the rent of their residential facility.
  • 74% of them opined that they are satisfied with their work, 47% wanted to expand their work but were not sure what they really wanted to do and what are the constraints that they are facing in doing so. Only 7% wanted time and resources to further enhance their work and 4% expressed their willingness to get skill training to increase their economic productivity.
  • The data regarding the type of work in which these HBWs are engaged depicted that 158 respondents are engaged in 755 works belonging to 11 different categories. On an overall basis, highest responses were obtained in the following areas: 58 respondents are engaged in stitching, 49 in embroidery, 34 in mirror work, 30 in R-work and 29 respondents each in food making and chutni/pickle making.
  • Data was obtained from only one HBWO while the target was to gather information from 100 such organizations. Thus the data obtained as a sample is not at all representative of the population. However, it is being presented here for information.
  • The organization did not respond to the questions that whether they buy the products of their members and at which price they sell the products in the market.


  • Majority of the respondents included in the study were illiterate unaware of their rights and of the ever-changing market trends. Strategies need to be devised to minimally educate HBWs.
  • The trend of living in unit families was quite obvious from the available data.
  • 82% have not joined any organization. Their potential needs to be tapped down by organizing them into viable groups (community based organizations) so as to maximize their productivity.
  • 39% of the respondents reported that they are working more than eight hours daily. The dependency of the HBWs on the homework providers is so complicated that the HBWs are compelled to carry on their work without any service rules or regulations. Once they are organized maybe they could negotiate the terms and conditions on better grounds.
  • Nearly 54% of the respondents are getting help from home in their work. This help is generally provided by persons between the age of 10-20 years (75%). 45% of the helpers are between the age of 10-15 years who are still in their school going age and have no other option except to work for the economic uplift of their household.
  • Majority of issues arise for the HBWs when they do not get work directly from the market and are on the mercy of the middle man or middle woman for taking orders and payments.
  • Linkages need to be established between HBWOs and line agencies to provide services like social security, health card and EOBI to them.


HNP has been striving hard to complete the mapping of HBWs on the National level and to address the problems that are being faced by them in carrying out their work. Once the mapping process is completed more efforts will be focused towards the awareness raising of this important segment of the society that are voicelessly providing support to the foundation of the national economy. Simultaneously, government agencies and other social services providing institutions also need to be sensitized towards the issues of HBWs especially women. The challenge for HNP is, no doubt, gigantic but not impossible.

Rashida – A Case Study

Rashida, a 45 year old woman, lives in Multan, works in a small and dark airless room. This room is actually her house and serves as a kitchen, a bedroom, and sitting room. Just outside her home is a small ditch filled with dirty smelly water.

Rashida makes her living by putting small beads on a long string of ribbon or lace. She makes 25 Rs only if she putts 1440 beads on 10 meter long lace. She feels that the work is very hard and remuneration too low. She faces many health problems. Due to the delicate work, half of her nail on thumb and forefinger has been cut, and the exposed skin under the nail has become hard and discolored. Her eyesight has become weak and her backbone is now bent. She stands up to show is that she cannot even stand upright anymore. Also because of the ditch outside, there are many mosquitoes in the area and the smell at times can be unbearable. However, desperate to make ends meet.

Rashida sometimes has to work as late as one in the morning. She has also started teaching the work to her daughters in order to increase their income. One of her daughter is 6months pregnant and sits in an uncomfortable position for hours to finish the work.

Rashida told us that now her life is not as miserable as it had been. She said, “HomeNet Pakistan approached the workers like me and listens to our problems. Now I know how to talk to my middle person for giving me satisfactory wages. I know my rights now. I know how to work better in the bad circumstances only because of the support that HomeNet Pakistan provided. I know it is my well wisher that works for me whole heartedly.”

Home-Based Workers Struggle to Climb Out of Poverty

KARACHI, Jan 25, 2010 (IPS) – Razia Khatoon, 36, crouches over a huge wooden frame, her eyes squinting in the dimly lit room inside a squatter settlement in Orangi town in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city.

She deftly stitches one bead after another to embellish a semi-finished embroidered woman’s dress, stretched over the frame. She says she has no time for “small talk” as the “order” has to be delivered within the day. “If we don’t finish this by the evening, we may not get another order,” declares Khatoon.

While she feels fortunate that she can still earn, the domestic demand for goods such as the dresses she makes has shrunk considerably, as everyone is reeling from the impact of a sharp rise in the prices of essential commodities since Pakistan’s economy took a hit five less than five years ago.

The mother of 10 adds that there are too many like her who would jump at the chance to take over her job if she showed even the slightest sign of vacillation.

“We work 10 to 12 hours daily, and it takes us three days to finish one piece,” she explains. She earns 700 to 1,500 rupees (8.3 to 17.8 U.S. dollars) a piece depending on the intricacy of the pattern. Khatoon has been at it for the past 18 years.

Khatoon is among the 8.52 million home-based, or informal, workers in Pakistan, representing 70 percent of the women workforce in the country, based on the 2009 Pakistan Economic Survey. HomeNet Pakistan, a network of organisations working directly with home-based workers (HBWs), says the figure could be as high as 80 percent.

Home-based business or cottage industry products in Pakistan range from incense sticks, bangle decorations to women’s and children’s apparel. They also cover carpet making, fruit cleaning, prawn peeling and packing, box making, pottery and stitching jute/gunny bags. These are major sources of income among a large number of Pakistan’s poor.

Large manufacturers contract their work out to middlemen, who get it done, often under a piecemeal arrangement, by these informal labourers.

Unlike those working in the formal economy, whose activities are monitored and taxed by the government, Khatoon has none of the benefits enjoyed by the former.

The informal sector does not fall within the definition of ‘workers by the government, says Zera Khan, secretary-general of the Home-Based Women Workers Association, recently formed by the Labour Education Foundation, a non-government organisation (NGO). Hence, she says, the sector does not enjoy the protection and security provided by labour laws, including the Payment of Wages Act, the Maternity Benefits Ordinance and the Employees Old Age Benefit Act.

Experts say globalisation have shrunk the size of large-scale industrial sector and increased the share of informal workers in Pakistan, putting additional pressure on women to supplement the household income.

Based on the Pakistan Labour Force Survey of 2007-2008, the informal sector accounts for more than 73 percent of the total employment. In the last two years, it has grown by 28 percent, says HomeNet’s national coordinator, Ume Laila Azhar.

Kaiser Bengali, an eminent Pakistani economist, calls this expansion of informal work the “reverse cascade effect,” which hits those “right at the bottom”.

Pakistan’s economy began spiraling into a decline by the end of 2005. Since then it has been struggling to limp out of the recession owing, among others, to high defence spending amid unrelenting militant attacks. Incessant unrest and violence have driven away potential investors.

The country’s unemployment rate is estimated at 7.40 percent of its total workforce, which is roughly 50 percent of its population of about 168 million.

In its August 2009 report titled ‘No Cushion to Fall Back, the Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organiz¬ing (WIEGO) says, “when formal labour markets constrict, retrenched workers often turn to the informal economy.” In developing countries, where such a phenomenon is particularly evident, “there is often a paucity of public services or programmes to support the unemployed.”

WEIGO, a global independent network seeking to improve the conditions of the working poor, dispels the notion that the informal sector does not suffer during economic crises.”Many work at or below the extreme poverty line, making less than 1.25 dollars a day and are unable to lift themselves out of poverty,” it states in its report.

Asma Ravji, who works for Sungi, another NGO working for HBWs, says some of the main issues confronting the latter are “irregular work, irregular monthly income, lack of insurance and safety nets as well as labour rights. Since they are not organised and do not have unions or associations, they cannot negotiate for wages and as a result are exploited by middlemen, adds Ravji.

“The economic downturn is going to force even more women to enter the informal sector, and given Pakistan’s security/law and order situation coupled with women’s responsibilities on the home front, more women and children are expected to join home-based work,” predicts Dr Saba Gul Khattak, a member of the central government’s Planning Commission.

Recalling a similar trend 10 to 15 years ago that prompted structural adjustment policies, Khattak says: “As general subsidies are being lifted, the poor would be hit more and, logically, women and children would be more vulnerable to home-based work, which is not regulated and where remuneration is extremely low. Their bargaining ability is systematically reduced.”

Khatoon is all too familiar with such a situation. Her six older children, now out of school, help her with her work.

According to HomeNet, youth make up the highest proportion of unpaid family workers (47 percent) while over 42 percent of home-based workers fall between the ages of 15 and 24.

“We were doing all right and, by God’s grace, were able to send the kids to school and give them three square meals a day. Life was good,” says Nasir Sabir, Khatoon’s husband. “But last year, we had to pull our children out of school,” says Sabir, who helps his wife, among others, by bringing in orders, taking them back, and getting the needed supplies.

“The price of food items has skyrocketed and broken our backs. What is the poor to do? Feed the children or send them to school?” asks a frustrated Sabir.

A few lanes away from Khatoon’s house, Suraj Jamal, 55, and her teenage daughter are busy making ‘agar battis or incense sticks. Taking a dollop of the thick gooey batter, the two carry on the work while Jamal’s husband, Mohammad Alam, an electrician, acts as translator and interpreter for IPS, since his wife speaks only Bengali, the native dialect of the Bihari community in eastern India, where she hails from.

“We make between 60,000 and 70,000 sticks a week. For every 1,000 (pieces), we are paid 9.50 rupees (11 U.S. cents). In the market, a packet of a dozen incense sticks is sold for 15 rupees (17 cents),” says 60-year-old Alam, noting the hefty markup.

Jamal is afraid to ask the contractor for a raise. “He may go elsewhere,” she says.

Economist Bengali, who is advisor to the Chief Minister of Sindh province on planning and development, says HBWs are doubly marginalised. “When there is widespread unemployment or surplus labour, the price of labour automatically goes down.”

Jamal and Alam’s teenage daughter says her family has stopped eating breakfast in these leaner times.

As of 2009, undernourishment in Pakistan has afflicted 28 percent of the population up from 24 percent from the previous year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, a specialised agency of the United Nations.

Fifty-something Zahida Mumtaz’s husband suffers from a failing kidney and does not have a permanent job. She gets a paltry 20 to 50 rupees (23 to 59 cents) for every one dozen girl’s dresses she stitches.

“I know I’m getting very little because the same dress is sold for 200 rupees (2.3 dollars) by the factory to a retail shop. I saw the label myself just before it was being packed and sent off!” she says. “If we refuse or complain of low rates, the contractor will take the order elsewhere.”

She adds: “We work so hard, even longer and then we do housework too. Why are we paid a pittance? Just because we don’t go to factories does not mean our work does not count?”

But things seem to be looking up for the HBWs like Mumtaz. Late last year, a National Policy on Home-Based Workers was formulated. It is expected to help the informal sector finally get some of the benefits that are otherwise unavailable to them at the moment.

The Ministry of Women Development, Ministry of Labour and Manpower, Sungi and HomeNet Pakistan have signed a memorandum of understanding, mandating them to work together on the legislation and implementation of the policy, says Ravji.

Until then, life for many informal workers like Khatoon, Jamal and Mumtaz will remain steeped in poverty.