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Pakistan’s rural women highest economic contributor having fewer rights; Study

WomenPakistan's rural women highest economic contributor having fewer rights; Study
By: Our Editor

ISLAMABAD: Rural women working in agricultural fields are the largest contributors to the informal economy in Pakistan, but they are not acknowledged, counted and protected. These women have same rights as working women in cities but in remote areas there is no recognition of their contribution and rights. These thoughts were expressed by Kashmala Tariq, Federal Ombudsperson for Protection Against Harassment at the national launch of study on women agricultural workers rights organized by Awaz-CDS Pakistan.

She also said that there is a strong need to implement laws already in place for women agricultural workers’ rights as they often earn less than men and are deprived of basic rights and protection. She stressed on the need of creating awareness among Women Agricultural Workers (WAWs) through mass media and effective role of local governments in addressing these issues.

The study titled “ The Hands That Feed Us: Struggles of Women Agricultural Workers in Pakistan” was conducted by AwazCDS-Pakistan in collaboration with Forum Asia and Bread for the World in the aftermath of COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief Executive AwazCDS-Pakistan Zia-ur-Rehman highlighted in his address that women agricultural workers (WAWs) often earn less than 50 percent of men wages. WAWs traditionally face malnutrition, discrimination, violence, and ill-treatment by their partners, including exploitation and sexual harassment. Most of them are married in early age and forced to work in fields on behalf of in-law families as bonded laborers.

Highlighting the need to carry out this study, Mr. Rehman said that “There are several women empowerment studies but limited research is available on the measurement of empowerment in the agricultural context. Therefore, it was decided to carry out a study to assess, identify and articulate the contributing factors associated with socio-economic, legal, gender and political empowerment of Women Agriculture Workers (WAW) in Sindh and Punjab Provinces of Pakistan”
The event centered a panel discussion moderated by Zia-ur-Rehman and Maryam Amjad, Program Manager AwazCDS-Pakistan about the issues brought up within the study. The speakers included Dr. Shahida Rehmani, Chairperson Women Parliamentary Caucus, Ms. Shandana Gulzar, Ex-Convener Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Chairperson Common Wealth Women Parliamentary Forum, Ms. Mardiya Sultana Member, National Commission for Status of Women, Ms. Mahwish Afridi, Head of SDG Program, Hashoo Foundation.
Mr. Chaundry Imtiaz Ahmed, Director Agriculture Rahim Yar Khan, Ms. Sameena Nazeer, Executive Director PODA, Aftab Alam Khan, Chief Executive Resilient Future International threw light on the situation of rural women rights and how they are deprived of their basic rights.

The study findings suggested appropriate measures and recommendations to address identified policy and practice level gaps. The study findings and recommendations also highlight the WAWs right to work, right to safe and secure working conditions, rights of assembly and association, right to social security and right to a healthy environment.

Shandana Gulzar, Ex-Convener Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Chairperson Common Wealth Women Parliamentary Forum said WAW rights are not an issue of social welfare, it is about basic human rights. She threw light on the situation of rural women rights and how they are deprived of their basic rights.

Mahwish Afridi, Head of SDG Program, Hashoo Foundation said that there is a need to empower women agricultural workers by imparting them with required technical skills to make linkages with the market. They should be aware of their rights and the facilities to acquire and utilize microfinance.
Maryam Amjad, Program Manager AwazCDS Pakistan shared the method, findings and recommendations from the study. She recommended that provincial ministries, district departments, UN and Trade Unions must be involved in ensuring WAW rights by building their capacities and raising their awareness. In the Mr. Debendra Adhikari Head of South Asia Program Forum Asia thanked the Participants for their great contributions.

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