WWA advocates basic rights of women workers
Most of the women workers are working at both registered and unregistered organizations/institutions and are confronted with unsuitable circumstances since they are deprived of basic facilities that are their basic rights at workplaces. They are confronted with non-availability of separate washrooms, absence of anti-harassment committees, non-provision of wage as per minimum wage law, non-availability of social security cards, EOBI and provident funds etc. at their workplaces. Women Workers’ Alliance (WWA) has been formed to raise women workers’ concerns under the project Enhancing Women Workers’ Access to Market (EWAM).
WWA members in Lahore visited 134 institutions from private, governmental and industrial sectors. They observed that there is no implementation of labor laws and found out that majority of the government, private and industrial institutions had no anti-harassment committee. There is non-availability of separate washrooms for women as well. The absence of anti-harassment committees and separate washrooms was discussed during monthly meeting of WWA on 30 January 2021 where they planned to organize a campaign to raise these issues to the concerned authorities. During capacity building training of women workers, most of the participants shared that there is no anti-harassment committee or separate washrooms in their respective institutions specially lady health workers (LHW) from the government sector. WWA members in Lahore prepared an action plan in the planning & review meeting to initiate a campaign to highlight both these issues. Advocacy meetings were also organized in February 2021 with concerned authorities.
In addition, advocacy meetings have been organized to raise both these issues with Minister and Secretary of Women Development Department, Women Protection Authority, CEO Health, CEO Education , CSOs (Akhuwat, Kashaf Foundation, Damne), Pakistan Railway Association, Educational Institutions, Higher Education Commission, Election Commission of Pakistan, PESSI, Social welfare Department Employers Association, Management of TEVETA, Government Teachers Association, Private School Associations, All Pakistan Medical Association, Young Nurses Association, LHW welfare Association, press clubs, Lahore Bar Association, High Court Bar Association, Ombudsperson, Secretary local government. Furthermore, they organized meetings with Commissioner and Deputy commissioner, Punjab Comision on the Status of Women (PCSW), Women Chamber of Commerce in order to draw their attention towards forming anti-harassment committees and ensuring provision of separate washrooms in the institutions under their authority. All stakeholders appreciated the stance of WWA and ensured resolution of the problems that were noted.
In addition to it, EWAM coordination group has been formed with the inclusion of all stakeholders in it. The basic objective of this group is to ensure enabling environment for women workers by ensuring their legal rights at workplaces. During EWAM coordination meeting on 12 February 2021, both the issues were discussed after which the stakeholders ensured cooperation.
A press conference of women workers was also organized on 12 February 2021 to highlight the absence of anti-harassment committees and non-provision of separate washrooms in the institutions. In this press conference, WWA members also raised the following demands to the concerned authorities:
1- Labor department should ensure the payment of wage to women workers as set by provincial government.
2-Punjab Employees Social Security Institution should take steps for the provision of EOBI, social security cards and provident fund to permanent workers of private institutions.
3-Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Women Chamber of Commerce should develop a strategy to ensure implementation on labor laws in its member industries.
4-Employers association should take solid steps for trade union in their concerned industries for discussion that fulfilled their objectives.
5-Punjab Commission on the Status of Women, Women Protection Authority, Ombudsperson should develop strategy to ensure formation of anti-sexual harassment committee in all institutions.
6-Labor Ministry should ensure labor inspection in all industrial institutions and factories.
Furthermore, demonstrations had been organized on 8 and 16 March, 2021 by WWA and during these demonstrations, demands were raised on placards regarding formation of anti-harassment committee in the institutions.
It is a big achievement for WWA that they drew attention of the higher authorities to women workers’ issues and convinced them to resolve these concerns to create an enabling environment at the workplaces which is the primal objective of the project.