Women Peasants and Rural Workers in Sindh: Most Neglected by the Sindh Govt

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During a Seminar organized by the Hari Welfare Association addressing the practical shortcomings of the provincial government of Sindh in safeguarding the rights of peasants and rural women, participants expressed deep concerns and regrets on the occasion of International Women’s Day. This day serves as a stark reminder of the considerable practical work that still needs to be undertaken to guarantee the rights and welfare of women in the rural areas of Sindh.

The critical issue raised by women peasants pertains to the failure of government programs, such as Ehsaas and Benazir Income Support Programme, in enabling rural women to achieve self-sustainability. These programs provide meager funds after considerable humiliation but do little to empower women to build their own livelihoods.

Participants also voiced disappointment in the lack of implementation of the Sindh Women Agriculture Workers Act (SWAWA) passed in 2019. This act is a pivotal step towards recognizing the work of women in the agriculture sector, promoting their participation in decision-making, and fostering empowerment. Unfortunately, more than four years have passed, and no steps have been taken to enforce this law, which is vital for the rights of women involved in agriculture, livestock, fisheries, and related sectors.

Akram Ali Khaskheli President Hari Welfare Association shared that from 2014 to 2022, a total of 1,013 cases of child marriages were reported in the media for the entire Pakistan; among these, 645 cases (64 percent) were reported in Sindh. Though there is the SINDH CHILD MARRIAGES RESTRAINT Act of 2013, which prohibits the marriage of children under 18 years. He shared that these are the alarming statistic, which highlights the severity of the issue and also signals potential systemic challenges and gaps in safeguarding children’s rights in Sindh.

Khaskheli said that women in Tharparkar, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, Dadu, Jacobabad, and Badin districts live in the worst conditions, almost without access to health and education services and facilities. He shared that despite the promises made in the SWAWA of 2019, they are hardly given Rs5000 to Rs10000 per month for their extensive work in the entire cultivation process, particularly in laborious activities like chili picking, cotton picking, date processing, banana cultivation, and wheat cultivation.

Baib Naz Makrani, president of Harayani Mazdoor Union of Village Muhammad Isa Makrani, expressed that only NGOs are facilitating the formation of women’s trade unions in the agriculture sector, with no efforts from the government. She also highlighted the alarming increase in violence against women and girls, including honor killings, child marriages, and domestic violence.

Sakina Bibi, president of Harayani Sujag Mazdoor Union of Village Hakim Ali Khaskheli, added that despite more than 70% of women in rural Sindh being engaged in agriculture and related occupations, they and their families continue to endure poverty, malnutrition, and hunger. Sakina pointed out that despite the Sindh Bonded Labour System Abolition Act of 2015, women and girls are still working as bonded laborers in the agriculture and fisheries sectors, subjected to hazardous conditions such as cotton harvesting, pesticide application, and exposure to dangerous machinery and environmental risks.

Zulekhan Chutto, president of Shah Inayat Mazdoor Union of Village Nooruallah Chuto, stated that over 55% of women in rural areas lack education due to the non-serious attitude of government departments. She emphasized that the low literacy rate in rural areas prevents most women and girls from attending school, mainly due to the absence of girls’ schools, female teachers, or feudal and tribal systems that control society.

 

Muhammad Sabir Qureshi Additional director Social Welfare Department, Zaib-ul-Nisa Deputy Director Women Development Department, Asif-ul-Basher of HRCP, Yaseen Ali, Shahzad Ahmed Khaskheli and others also spoke on the occasion.

The participants urged the government of Sindh and the labor department under the SWAWA of 2019 to notify the board, set up field offices across the province, register women agriculture workers, and establish rules under the law.

They also urged the government to provide genuine representation of women agriculture workers on the board and tripartite councils through wider publicity and promotion of the law.

They insisted that the Sindh Women Agriculture Workers Act must be fully implemented, emphasizing that the government’s commitment to enforcing this law is crucial to recognizing and protecting the rights of women in the agriculture sector.

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