This case study was conducted for the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), with the financial support of ActionAid France in 2017. It was published in both English and French.
The Lady Health Workers (LHW) Programme, instituted in 1994, is considered one of the largest and successful community based primary healthcare initiatives in the world. The lady health workers’ role has received recognition by the global health bodies in improving Pakistan’s maternal and child health indicators. Currently more than 130,000 lady health workers reach out to 60 to 70 per cent of the country’s population residing in rural and low-income urban areas.
Perhaps if it was not a collective struggle for their rights, the lady health workers would have continued to suffer injustice in silence: a low wage, no benefits and insecure job. It was death of a health worker at child birth that compelled Bushra Arain, a Lady Health Supervisor, to rebel against the irony: health providers’ own deprivation of health facilities and lack of decent work conditions. She and several other lady health supervisors mobilised the workers and founded the union, the All Pakistan Lady Health Workers’ Welfare Association, in December 2008. By early 2009, each district had a Baji (elder sister), a dynamic activist health worker to prepare the cadre for struggle. The union took to legal intervention and street power to claim their due rights at work place. The phenomenon was unique: never before in Pakistan’s history had women workers exercised the right to ‘collective bargaining’ in any sector, much less in the low-paid care economy.
The case study aims to document the LHWs’ struggle, review the constraints they faced as women workers in a public sector health programme and as caregivers, identify the union’s strategies and highlight the achievements of their eight-year long battle.
Click here to access the full report in English.
Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2017
WHEN I entered the job market in the late 1970s, income security in old age was an idea from another planet for women in Pakistan. Not because they weren’t working then or 10 decades earlier: they were toiling at home, in the field and in offices, schools, hospitals and other public domains. It was just that money was a male matter and what was drilled into women was to secure a husband and not income security in old age. Are young women money-smart nowadays and do they think about income security?
Published on May 26 2016 in Dawn
Hope is the thing with feathers — perches in the soul — and sings the tune … and never stops. — Emily Dickinson
THE women of Pakistan keep on struggling on sheer grit and eternal hope but if you glance at the global data you would laugh at their tenacity and this ‘thing with feathers’ called ‘hope’: we live at the bottom of the pit when it comes to the gender gap.
During my early youth I believed that adolescence was the most wonderful period in a person’s life. And I thought every teenager in the world was in a blissful state. It made me feel miserable. Because I wasn’t having ‘the most wonderful time’ in the least!
I think it was Urdu poetry that played mischief and filled my head with romanticised notions of youth. I am sure fiction didn’t do any harm because for one thing, it was ‘taraqqi pasand afsanay’ I was reading since class five; for another, they must be going above my head at that time anyway.
Whatever poets said about ‘sweet sixteen’, to me it was nothing but sour. All my complexes (inferiority complexes) intense ambivalence (particularly toward my mother), fights and frictions (with siblings), dreams, aspirations, frustrations, etc, made my mind a confused jumble of thoughts and feelings, and my ‘stream of consciousness’ a torrential, frothing mass. But mercifully all that was behind a placid facade: I was quite a quiet person.
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
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.
Click the link below to view the full report:
The Flood Affected Population in Sindh – Rebuilding Lives and Livelihoods: The Case for Structural Reforms