Sindh Govt to increase women labor force participation with the inclusion of HBWs

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KARACHI: The Sindh Government is committed to increasing the Women’s labor force participation with the inclusion of HBWs, parliamentarians said in a seminar.

Speaking on the occasion, Secretary women Development Alia Shahid said that the government, in order to empower the HBWs of the province, is committed to taking forward the strengthening of the HBWs at all levels.

She said that the Notification of the Women’s Economic empowerment council will address the gaps in order to pave the way for the economic empowerment of the women across sectors. She stressed the need for introducing innovative measures for businesses and product development.

Sindh Parliamentarians demanded speedy finalization of the Rules of Business for the HBWs Act which was approved by the Sindh Assembly in May 2018. Since then, the Rules of business for the implementation of the Act are delayed.

Minister for Women’s Development Shala Raza said that the Sindh government is committed to the HBWs cause and is ahead of other provinces by having the law for HBWs and implementation plan with registration mechanism.

“We are seriously linking up the HBWs with other streams of women empowerment network at the district level in order to bring them to a level where they are able to take their decisions and for the community benefit,” she said.

Sindh now has support from Japan for the empowerment of HBWs and we will take the learnings from this to the initiative for strengthening the home workers and the development of their products for better businesses, the minister added.

Speaking on the occasion Nusrat Seher Abbasi, MPA GDA said that the HBWs law has been one of the significant achievements of the previous government and PPP is very much cognizant of the fact that HBWs should be the part of the workforce. Being part of a major workforce, home base workers remain hidden and unrecognized. The law once implemented would give them the right to be a worker ad enjoy the perks as workers.

She showed her concern about the delay by the administrative department in making and finalization of the rules of businesses and finalizing the registration mechanism. Nusrat said that with the consultation of the members a joint resolution would soon be put up in the assembly in order to get an update on the rules and business and the registration mechanism. She appreciated the online platform set up by HomeNet Pakistan for the direct marketing of the HBWs products.

Sidra Imran, MPA from PTI said that with the inclusion HBW in the workforce would add on the women workforce of the province. This would be a landmark because so far the women workforce of the province is very low. Step for the strengthening and empowerment of HBWs taken by Home Net Pakistan supported by UN WOMEN are commendable and needs to be scaled up.

The registration of HBWs and their access to social security would be made them more empowered to work and earn better. She said that the leadership of women home workers is something that we need to replicate at all levels and create more leaders. She also highlighted the importance of the unionization of the workers in the home base sector.

Ume Laila Azhar, Executive Director HomeNet Pakistan shared the present status of the HBWs Act which is awaiting the implementation plan. She said the Labour department has developed the rules of business which are awaited. She also flagged the need for an approved plan of action for ensuring the implementation of the Law in true sense.

She presented the successes of the program where a cadre of leadership has been developed for mobilization. She also stressed the need for the establishment of the Provincial council as envisioned in the law. Further, she said that the establishment of the fund and allocation of seed money by the government should be taken on a priority basis. Registration of the HBWs to be ensured by the labor department and union council is pivotal to that, Ume Laila added.

Karamat Ali, from PILER, regretted that the protection of the workers and labor from the formal and informal sector has been neglected at a very high platform of parliament. He said that all political parties need to take a collective decision for making a cohesive framework for the protection of the workers from the formal and informal sectors.

MPA Marvi Rashidi said talking on the occasion shared GoS road map for the protection of the HBWs by enhancing their skills and uplifting their social and economic status.

Nuzhat Shirin, from the Sindh Commission on the Status of Women, stated that Commission has formed a women economic empowerment committee in which they have included civil society as well.

Mahnaz Rahman, from Aurat Foundation, said that with the support of UN Women, HomeNet Pakistan implemented the project with the support of the Aurat Foundation and has yielded positive results. She appreciated the efforts of HomeNet for bringing in innovative technology initiatives for marketing the HBWs products. She highlighted the importance of capacity building, life skill enhancement, product diversification, financial inclusion for empowering the own account home base workers.

Naheed Syed from HomeNet Pakistan shared the initiatives taken so far for the upliftment of the HBWs in Karachi and Thatta. She said that 3500 HBWs have been identified in this phase who will be registered with the labour department. Around 600 HBWs have been trained on business development and 300 have received loans and linked with the market. More than 100 home base workers have created their own line E-shops for direct marketing of the products.

Gulfam Nabi Memon, share the main clauses of the HBWs Act and draft rules of businesses. The criteria of the HBWs to registered would be developed as per the definition in the law. He said that HBWs registration will kick off in 4 divisions of Karachi and Hyderabad including Thatta in the first phase with the support of UN Women. He further explained the complaint mechanism for the redressal of home workers with regard to minimum wage etc.

Farrukh Zaidi from the Labour department and Majyd Aziz from the Employers Federation of Pakistan also spoke on home-based workers issues.