ISLAMABAD: In a dialogue held on Saturday to commemorate International Women’s Day, participants discussed concerns faced by home-based women workers and stressed the need for collaborative efforts to solve them.

The dialogue was organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), partnering with HomeNet Pakistan, the All Pakistan Women’s Association Multan, and the Multan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Aligned with this year’s theme of Women’s Day, “Invest in Women: Accelerates Progress,” the dialogue, “Multi-stakeholder’s Dialogue on Investing in Pakistan Home-Based Workers for Accelerated Progress Towards Gender Equality,” was aimed at discussing the multi-stakeholder approach required for real-world outcomes for the right holders.

The speakers at the dialogue highlighted that in Pakistan, home-based workers faced a myriad of challenges amidst a backdrop of widespread human rights and labour violations, particularly prevalent in the informal economy.

They noted that this sector was rife with forced or bonded labour, child labour, gender-based discrimination, and a pervasive lack of adherence to labour standards, exacerbated by the absence of an enabling environment for women’s equal participation in the economy.

The participants also observed that the informal nature of employment in Pakistan, including in the textile sector, which was Pakistan’s largest export industry, from cotton picking to manufacturing, left informal workers vulnerable to exploitation as they lacked legal protection and were often arbitrarily dismissed without recourse.

Speaking on this occasion, NCHR Chairperson Rabiya Javeri Agha stressed the need to empower women home-based workers so that they could claim their rights as well as redress if their rights were violated.

Ms Agha said that NCHR was working on the empowerment of women, and this event was the first of a series of skilled awareness-raising education and was also part of the NCHR’s initiative in business and human rights.

The NCHR chairperson ensured the commission’s complete support for the protection of home-based women workers.

Speakers said that home-based workers, predominantly women, endured excessive working hours, hazardous conditions, and exploitative relationships with intermediate contractors, resulting in income well below the national minimum wage.

They added that these challenges underscored an urgent need for comprehensive reforms to safeguard the rights and dignity of home-based workers in Pakistan’s business landscape.

Findings of a study titled “Homeworkers in the Garment Supply Chain” conducted by HomeNet South Asia were also shared at the event.

The study was conducted with 110 female homeworkers (HWs) in Karachi in the year 2022.

Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2024

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