ISLAMABAD: A large number of women work in China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects including as truck drivers in the Thar Coal Project, the deputy chief of mission at the Chinese Embassy, Lijian Zhao said on Monday.

We are expecting more jobs for women in the next phase of CPEC in which industrialisation will be done,” he said at the launch of a report on the Role of Women in CPEC, organised by the Pak-China Institute.

Mr Zhao, who is the embassy’s focal person on CPEC said the role of women in CPEC was missing from the seminars being held.

He said a few years ago, no one could imagine women driving taxis and that they are now driving trucks.

He said that centuries back in China, the emperor had decided that women’s feet should be small due to which their feet were tied and turned back on themselves so it was difficult for women to walk.

“However, after liberation, Mao Zedog said women hold half the sky due to which Chinese women got the opportunity to start taking part in economic activities and currently 72pc of women work in the urban areas of China,” Mr Zhao said.

The first economic zone under CPEC will be established in Rashakai, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the deputy chief of mission said, adding that nine economic zones will be established across the country.

Rejecting all rumours, Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari said CPEC will stay in Pakistan and will move forward.

“Those who say CPEC will be abolished are living in a fool’s paradise. In the near future, the project will be enhanced and new ideas will also be included in it,” she said.

The minister said more women will find jobs in CPEC due to which it will become a game changer.

She said the government will look into the recommendations made in the new report for implementation.

She stressed that involving neighbouring countries will add substance to CPEC and that such a curse will make Pakistan and China regional trade hubs and will also help promote indigenization.

Ms Mazari said CPEC will also include technical and vocational training programs for women so they can find employment opportunities in various projects. She said she was confident the establishment of special economic zones under CPEC will provide better working environment for the labour force, including women.

She said academics and research has also been added to CPEC, which is equally important to economic development.

She said the government is framing a bill on the rights of domestic workers and is working on legislation for the protection of and provision of better environments for women.

Pakistan is signatory to several International Labour Organisation conventions but the previous government did not bring legislation for their implementation.

Thar Engro Coal Power Project representative Naseer Memon said 26 women drivers are currently working in the project and that 100 more will be inducted in the second phase.

“We are also establishing a day care centre where women can leave their children and work with full attention and concentration,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2018

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