Home-Based Women Workers Federation organizes rally on International Women’s Day to raise voice for the rights of womenfolk
The working women’s rally on Wednesday – the International Women’s Day, demanded to abolish all anti-women laws and fix the minimum wage at Rs.50000 per month.
The rally was arranged by Home-Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) led by their central general secretary Zehra Khan. It marched from Fawara Chowk to the Arts Council of Pakistan. Thousands of women workers belonging to different parts of Sindh participated in the rally including women peasants, laborers and office workers. Besides women leaders of political and social parties and transgender also attended the rally, carrying banners and placards inscribed with their slogans and hoisting red flags. They chanted slogans in favor of their demands.
The leaders in their speeches said that the capitalist economy has made the women wage-slaves. Gender-based discrimination, economic and environmental degradation has hit them hardly. They said that the struggle for freedom of women is basically the part of the war against capitalist dominance.
They said that the ongoing economic crisis in Pakistan has badly affected the women and children. About 20 million women and children have been pushed beneath the poverty line and it is feared that 10 million more women would go beneath the poverty line by the next year. The rulers on the behest of International Monetary Fund and World Bank have made the policies to reduce the real income of workers by sixty percent. Price hike has increased by forty percent and daily use commodities have already gone beyond the reach of the common man. A huge hike in the prices of petroleum products have made the life of citizens a living hell. Education, healthcare, electricity and gas expenses have been increased from 100 to 300 percent. The State is not discharging its constitutional responsibilities and instead of reducing non-development expenses subsidies for citizens are being ended.
They said that amid this economic crisis, forced sacking of workers from factories and workplaces are affecting most the women workers. For millions of women workers, earning opportunities in formal and informal sector are diminishing fast. In industrial sector, particularly textile and garment sector, hundreds of thousands of women are working as salaried slaves. Ninety five percent of these women workers are deprived of the basic rights of permanent employment, minimum wage, weekly holiday, social security and pension. There is no equal wages for equal work. Sexual harassment is common. Not only in factories and workplaces but in every section of society women have been facing an environment of suffocation. International brands and their local suppliers are openly violating the labor laws. Women workers are; however, an easy target of this cruel process.
The speakers said that regressive thoughts and tribal and feudal traditions of society are not ready to accept women as equal citizen. Anti-women ideologies are being promoted and woman is not safe from home to grave.
They said that the narrative of the Pakistani state has also strength the century’s long anti-women biases. These official policies are continuously repressing women, exploited classes, enslaved nations, religious minorities and transgender and promoting undemocratic and anti-society elements. As a result of these policies, the incidents of torture on women, children and transgender, gang-rape and honor killings are on the rise. The state has failed to stop the crimes of kidnapping of Hindu women and their forced conversions. In Sindh and Balochistan political and women activists are being disappeared. Courts, parliament and political parties are silent over this grim situation. The freedom of women is being considered as against the religious and cultural norms.
The speakers said that it is high time that the state should shun this anti-women narrative and abolish all discriminatory laws against the women. The Capitalism has not only worsened the gender-based discrimination, economic crisis and wage slavery but also harmed the natural environment, posing threats to survival of life on planet earth. A dreadful example of this climate change is the mega floods in Pakistan last year that affected 35 million people. These displaced people are still living on roads, majority of them women and children. Their crops and cattle heads were washed away. Schools, colleges and hospitals damaged. However, the state like previous occasions this time also failed in their help and rehabilitation.
The current crisis demands that the people, especially women workers should organize them and begin a struggle for radical changes in economic, social and political structure of the country, as the political and religious parties taking care of the vested interests of the ruling classes have failed to give a program for bringing real changes in lives of our masses.
The rally demanded to end the salaried slavery for good and wages of workers including women workers should be increased as per inflation; equal payment should be given for equal work; discrimination in wages on the basis of gender should be ended; all workers including home based workers and Haris should be registered with social security card pension institutions; pre and post maternity leaves should be increased. Women workers should be given fully paid maternity leaves as per law; women should be given protection against sexual harassment at workplaces and vigilance committees against harassment at workplaces should be formed as per law; child care centers should be formed at workplaces where the number of women workers is high; fashion brands should respect labor laws; all anti-women laws should be abolished; tribal and feudal system that has enslaved the women for centuries should be ended; sexual torture, kidnapping and forced conversions of the Hindu women should be stopped; feudalism should be ended and agricultural lands should be distributed amongst the Haris free of cost; razing old and workers’ settlements in the name of development should be stopped and people should not be displaced; torture against women, children, minorities and transgender should be declared as crime; the process of registration of home based workers should be resumed at the earliest; all non-development expenses including defence and administrative expenses should be slashed by half and budget for education and healthcare should be increased; public transport system should be modernized; payment of all loans of international lenders should be deferred; all anti-environmental projects should be ended. The industrialist countries should pay the announced funds of one hundred billion dollars to the countries affected by the climate change; forced disappearances of political activists including women should be ended; the officials in the forced disappearances should be punished and all disappeared people should be freed; the Pakistani suppliers of fashion brands should accept the Pakistan Accord so that the lives of workers could be protected; political parties must be legally bound to reserve 10% seats for women in general election; women must be allowed to vote without ID cards; restriction on women in Afghanistan and Iran should be lifted and the ban on girls’ education in Afghanistan should be lifted immediately.
On the occasion, a charter of women workers was also accepted.
The rally participants included Nasir Mansoor of National Trade Union Federation, Saira Feroze of United HB Workers Union, Shakila Khan and Jamila Abdul Latif of Home Based Women Bangle Workers Union, Sajida Kausar of HBWWF, Sabaghi Bheel president Sindh Agricultural General Workers Union, Dr. Momal Nasir, Karamat Ali convenor National Labor Council, Aqib Hussain of Alternative Youth group, Zainab Nasir of Alternative Youth group, Qazi Khizr of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Saeed Baloch of Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Waheed Baloch writer and intellectual, Hani Baloch writer, Sajjad Zaheer of Anjumam Taraqi Pasand Musanfeen and others. (PR)