EWAM empowers women to stand against harassment
Lady health workers in Pakistan play a massive role in making polio vaccines accessible for people residing in rural areas. Shireen Soomro, separated from her husband and resides at her parents, has been working in health department of Sukkur since 2009 to feed her three children. Shireen has been facing hardships at her workplace since her husband also works at health department. He made every effort to harass Shireen by blocking her salary ID, due to which she did not receive her salary for many years. This forced Shireen to take up a part time job to make both ends meet.
On the other hand, she faced harassment from her supervisor who forced her to get into relationship with him to make things easy at work. Her supervisor threatened to get her transferred to another district if she refused to comply with his demands. For the sake of keeping her job intact for her children’s survival, Shireen kept silent against the multiple harassments she faced.
During the COVID-19 lockdown in June 2020, Shireen had the opportunity of attending one of Enhancing Women’s Access to Market (EWAM) project’s training that motivated her to share her harassment story and seek help from women workers’ alliance (WWA). Shireen shared, ‘Through EWAM project I have learned about my rights. With the help of WWA, we were able to force district health office to establish anti-harassment committees.”
This collective effort of Shireen along with the alliance members, helped her in filing complaint against the departmental injustice and in October 2020, Shireen was able to withdraw salary after getting her salary ID reactivated. Later she filed a complaint against her supervisor to the anti-harassment committee. The committee set up an inquiry and found Shireen’s supervisor guilty, who apologized to her and was transferred to another district.
Shireen narrates, ‘I am very proud to be part of EWAM project and WWA. It provided me enormous courage and hope to fight back for my rights. All this was only possible due to EWAM’s work and struggle of all alliance members.”