Women and Children in Prison

This research report was written for the Association of the Business, Professional and Agricultural Women (ABPAW) in November 2003. 

This report includes the study of three prisons in Sindh, Pakistan, namely, Special Prison for Women, Larkana, Women Ward, Sukkur Prison II and the Juvenile Cell, Sukkur Prison II.

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Women and Children in Prison

Women Workers in Textile/Readymade Garments Sector in Pakistan and Bangladesh

This research report was written as a project undertaken by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) in collaboration with South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE) and was published in 2009.

This brief paper attempts to investigate the status of women workers in textile/apparel industries of Pakistan and Bangladesh, and explore the extent of mobilization and organization of women workers in the context of weakened trade unionism in the two countries. The study seeks to analyze the nature and extent of women’s contestation of barriers
and negotiation of space as defined through the institutionalized mechanisms of control and cultural barriers in the Muslim societies of the two countries.

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Women Workers in Textile/Readymade Garments Sector in Pakistan and Bangladesh

Road Transport Workers in Pakistan

This research report was written for Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), Karachi and was published in 2006.

This study presents an overview of road transport sector work environment, labour relations and working conditions and examines workers’ response to address some of the issues relating to social security through collective action. Methodology includes literature review and assessment through informal discussions with a select number of transport workers/operators, representatives of transport workers’ unions/organizations/federations, and private transport companies.

Excerpt:

Mustachioed, grim-faced, 44-year-old Najibullah Khan is on the road for the last 29 years. He works  as a driver on long distance route—Karachi to Islamabad. “I get Rs. 1500 per trip. A trip takes 26-27 hours. I make about 6 trips a month and that adds up to Rs. 9000 per month”. Born in a village in Musakhel, Mianwali, Najib dropped out of school after class 6 and was pushed into the labour market as a child. Initially he worked as bus cleaner and helper. When he got his license at 18, he took to driving. In 1973 he came to live in Karachi where he shares a rented accommodation with another person. 

Najib’s family members (parents, wife and 5 children) work as sharecropper in the village. These days he is paying a monthly installment of Rs. 1000 to the money lender for a loan of Rs. 10,000 he took to help his family buy agricultural inputs. “There is one more driver along with me in the bus, and we take turns after 4-5 hours of driving, taking 2-3 hours rest in between. After each trip I am off the bus for 24 hours and busy with maintenance of the vehicles and carry out related errands. I get little time to spend with my family whom I visit fortnightly.” For Najib, there are no holidays, no medical or other facilities and no social security.

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Road Transport Workers in Pakistan

The Flood Affected Population in Sindh Rebuilding Lives and Livelihoods: The Case for Structural Reforms

This research report was written for Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), Karachi and was published in January, 2011.

Pakistan’s devastating floods caused by extraordinary rainfall in July-Sept 2010 affected over 20 million people, causing 1,985 deaths and injuries to 2,946 people. The floods wreaked havoc, washed away crops and rural settlements, flooded towns and urban centres, damaged roads, bridges and irrigation canals, schools, hospitals and all social and physical infrastructures. The disaster led to unprecedented displacement of 1,550,000 people from flooded areas to dry places, mostly nearer homes and to urban centres in the home districts. A large number of people from the affected districts in Sindh, took refuge in the cities of Karachi and Hyderabad. The families who had resources, assets and support systems in dry districts cities stayed with their relatives and friends. The majority of the IDPs who lost their abodes, meagre assets and means of livelihoods had to take refuge in shelters and makeshift camps put up by the provincial governments, NGOs and international humanitarian agencies. The displaced persons in the camps overwhelmingly belonged to the lowest stratum of society.

In addition to relief work, PILER undertook a profiling and livelihood needs assessment survey to gauge socio-economic indicators and the livelihood status of the IDPs prior to the floods and get an idea of their future plans and aspirations. The objectives were to share the findings with relevant stakeholders (i.e. state, civil society, resource institutes) for possible linkages that would facilitate the IDPs in the reconstruction and rehabilitation phase and provide a basis to the PILER advocacy inputs towards a rehabilitation plan that commits to upgrading the living and work conditions of the IDPs and facilitate their access to fundamental rights and citizenship based entitlements.

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The Flood Affected Population in Sindh  – Rebuilding Lives and Livelihoods: The Case for Structural Reforms

Mohammad Khalid Akhtar: The Accomplished Writer

Published in Dawn, Karachi, Pakistan, in 2000

As you walk through him into the narrow, labyrinthine lanes of the old quarters of Karachi, past ramshackle shops shadowed by faded and worn-out signboards, enter dilapidated buildings with narrow wooden staircases, wrought iron balconies, arched windows, and peep into dinghy offices and residential quarters, a curious world opens up. A world as bright as a mid-summer day and as dark as a moon-less night, a world throbbing with life, a world full of people, ordinary people with extraordinary proclivities, dreaming special dreams, planning little things, reaching out to each other through transient strands of passion, love and hatred. You breathe in the air filled with their smells, tinged with their colours, intermingled with breathing of your companion, the writer, the guide who has taken a back seat and is trailing behind you in the expeditions he marked out for you with such a delightful innocence. Like a child who lets you have a peep in to his kaleidoscope, delighted to let you discover the bright, colourful shifting patterns, each a tiny distinct world of its own, made of splintered glass. The patterns that he has not created, the patterns that have existed since millenium but the pleasure of the discovery is entirely his own.

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Pakistan: A Society in Flux

Published in Dawn, Karachi, Pakistan on 13 June 2001

Teenage solid waste managers pedaling bikes, ferrying collected stuff in satchels. Neatly dressed executives driving air-conditioned Honda Civic. Green-turbaned, bearded, lanky young men, walking towards seminaries. Common womenfolk attired in shalwar qameez and duppata on their way to market, offices, educational institutions. Small traders talking on mobiles, steering Suzuki pick-ups. Young boys chatting at cyber cafes. Girls in designer’s jeans strolling in select areas. Women with hijab congregating at home or in five star hotels for dars. These are but few outer manifestations of lifestyles of contemporary Pakistani society, to be exact, contemporary urban Pakistani society.

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Shafiqur Rehman: A weaver of real-life dreams

Published in Dawn, Karachi, Pakistan in March 2000 

Though I had read his books hundreds of times and looked at his picture at the jackets as many times, the only time I met him was in the summer of 1980 at his Westridge, Rawalpindi, residence. I had translated two of his humorous pieces and sent him the published clippings. Now I wanted to translate his most celebrated work—the long short story Barsaati. I had already started work on it. But I knew in my heart that I must seek his permission this time.

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Karachi’s Ethnic Violence – Women and Crisis Management: A Study in Microcosm

This research report written for Shirkatgah, Karachi was published in The News, Pakistan on 21 May, 2000.

According to media reports, an average of 630 violent deaths (95 per cent male) per year was recorded in the city of Karachi during the ten-year period from 1990-99. No accumulated figures were released or studied–by any quarter–of men arrested/tried/incarcerated by criminal courts or gone underground. Yet media reports and unofficial estimates indicate that these figures ran in thousands. Armed conflict/ethnic strife in Karachi, thus, has left innumerable (middle and lower-middle income) families without male wage earners, leaving thousands of women and children survivors to cope with psychological trauma and economic hardships.

The following story presents in a microcosm the turbulent life of women affected by forces beyond their control, and attempts to document, courtsey Shirkatgah, the sheer grit and courage of women, and their struggle for survival.

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Karachi’s Ethnic Violence – Women and Crisis Management: A Study in Microcosm

Fahmida Riaz: Life and Work of a Poet

Published in Pakistan Journal of Women’s Studies: Alam-e-Niswan, Vol.2, No.1, 1995, Center of Excellence of Women’s Studies, Karachi University.

Truth, love, self-respect

Fragile playthings, made of clay

Crumble in a moment

Still, the world is beautiful

Sacred—like Mariam

Pure—like falsehood

 (Patthar ki Zuban, Fahmida Riaz)

It was a voice of a young poet communicating to the readers in the 1960s in Pakistan, in a patriarchal, class-ridden society under a military rule. The poems spoke of love of life, of yearnings for a beloved, of a muted sexual awakening. Despite being written in a traditional romantic vein, a certain vibrancy, a hesitant questioning, a subtle mockery of the norms, and a well-rounded lyricism set those poems apart from the run-of-the-mill Urdu poetry. And the fact that it was a voice of a woman, with an awareness of herself as a female growing up in a world where her feelings, her thoughts, her actions are circumscribed by traditional mores:

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The World of the Wandering Circus

Dated February 2000. Previously unpublished.

The sunlight on that 22nd January 2000 forenoon had washed away the magic of the previous night. Shorn off the glitter and the glamour, the circus arena and the surroundings were bathed in a homely, rustic glow. The tusk-less elephant stood morosely, flapping its ears. The white majestic horses with long manes had their nozzles in the hay bins. The panoramic cupola of the tent was folded up, exposing a criss-cross of thick ropes and poles still pegged on the dusty ground, giving ample space to the children artistes to glide by on their roller skates. The full circle of the make-shift stadium was broken as the workers pulled apart the raised iron benches and were busy stacking them. The stage floor was half gone, exposing the wagon of the caged lions. The raised floor of the musical band was still up, hanging in mid-air, with a disorderly queue of drums and other instruments. Beyond the remains of the stadium, were rows of small tents pitched side by side. Some of the curtain doors were flung open, exposing artistes on bed, curled up in comforters, some yawning, some still asleep, with the crumpled shiny costumes of the last show heaped on the top of the huge zinc trunks.

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