Rights activists demand end bonded labour, provision of social security to rural women workers

HYDERABAD – 14-Oct: Speakers at a seminar on on International Rural Women Day 2019 here on Monday demanded the government to end bonded labour especially in women, recognise labour of rural women by making direct payment to them for their labour and distribution of state land scheme should be re- started more effectively and should be given to women.

The seminar organized by Hari Welfare Association at Hyderabad Press Club was attended by a large number of peasants women from various districts of Sindh, representatives of human rights groups, peasants groups and civil society attended the the seminar. Those who spoke on the occasion included Pirbhu Lal, Regional Director of SPO; Zulfiqar Shah, Joint Director of PILER and Member, Sindh Human Rights Commission; Director, Hari Welfare Association Akram Khaskheli; Human Rights activists Punhal Saryo, Fazal Chandio, Taj Mari and Dr. Ashu Thama; the UN Women Representative Rubina Chandio; Ms Bashiran and others.

The speakers asked the government to make women entitled for housing schemes and all rural women should be covered in social security schemes. Sehat card should be extended to all rural women and a ration system be introduced in rural areas to provide food to women on discounted rates to end their poor nutrition. 

They said the state should provide young girls education and health at their doorsteps to empower them. 

The speakers pointed out that rural women in Sindh are suffering from all kinds of abuse, exploitation, marginalization and discrimination under the patriarchal, feudal and tribal society and there is need to increased literacy and spread awareness, said speakers at a seminar on International Rural Women Day 2019, 

According to 2017 Census, Sindh’s total population was 47.883 million of which 22.956 million (48 percent) were females, mainly in rural parts of Sindh, where the literacy rate is 45 percent as compared to 80 percent in urban areas. The low literacy rate in rural areas means the majority of women and girls are not being sent to the schools because of the state’s poor governance structure and also predominant control of the feudal lords and tribal lords on the social fabric of society. 

The speakers said in districts like Tharparkark, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, Dadu, Jacobabad, and Badin women are living in the worst conditions almost without access to health and education services and facilities. More than 70 per cent of the rural women in Sindh work in agriculture sector, but they and their children are victims of malnutrition. Due to male or boy preferences in rural areas, girls are often seen underweight and stunted. In a later stage of the life, women face complication at the time of delivery of  children. 

The speakers said that the notorious tribal custom honor killing is the most bizarre and common harmful traditional practice in rural parts of Sindh. Each year, thousands of women and girls are killed in the name of honor but often not known to the public. It said between January and September 2018, the Home Department of Government of Sindh had recorded 112 deaths of women and men in the name of honor. 

Besides, the issue of child marriage is the most common case in the rural areas mainly affecting girls and women. They said that according to Sahil NGO’s statistics 664 cases of child marriages were reported in Pakistan between the period from 2014 to 2018,; of these, 398 (60 percent) were mainly from rural parts of Sindh. In these cases, more than 95 percent were minor girls below 18 years of age. 

Slavery in the agriculture and brick kiln sectors is another major issue for rural women and girls. The speakers stated that a large number of women are living in slavery like situation in rural areas of Sindh in agriculture and brick kiln sector. 

From 2013 to 2018, 3917, Hari Welfare Association (HWA) recorded 3,917 cases of bonded laborers’ release (through courts) and escape from the custody of landlords; this data shows that women are also part of the debt bondage, which most often is not taken into account. Another dark side of the bonded labour is, most often men escape from the landlord’s captivity and leave their women and children behind. It results in more sufferings for women in the hands of cruel landlords. In some instances, it takes years for men to arrange help for the release of family members and in some cases, such as Muno Bheel, decades are passed, but their families are not recovered.

The speakers demanded to implement the recent Sindh High Court verdict on Tenancy laws and extend the labour laws to rural women workers as well. 

They said that protection of women in rural areas from all forms of abuse and exploitation and deprivation from food, health and education rights is only possible if the government of Sindh introduce society’s empowerment programmes’ through women’s education, health and financial stability through effective implementation of laws and policies for women protection.

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For further contact please. contact:  Akram Khaskheli 03003216672