Sustainable Social Development Organization (SSDO) in collaboration with The Women Workers Alliance holds District Convention to Advocate for Conducive Working Environments for Women
June 27, 2022, Islamabad: Sustainable Social Development Organization (SSDO) in collaboration with the Women Workers Alliance (WWA) held a District Convention to demand for administrative improvements for better labour governance at all levels. The Chief Guest was Chaudhary Salik Hussain, Federal Minister of the Board of Investment and Special Initiatives, while Senators Seemi Ezdi, Fawzia Arshad and Farhat Ullah Babar also graced the event. It was also attended by over a hundred women workers from diverse sections of the labour force, including those working in academia, civil society, media, business, law, education, sanitation, hospitality industry, healthcare and public service.
Chief guest Chaudhary Salik Hussain in his address said that the Board of Investment will now work closely with the Women Chamber of Commerce and help direct foreign funding to women led initiatives. He also said that we all have to work together to create a safer environment for the female in the country.
Senator Seemi Ezdi stated that a lot of work is done by legislators to empower women. 5% of tickets for general seats are reserved for women, and during the election process, any polling station with less than 10% turnout of women voters will be discarded. She also discussed the toll of unpaid labour on women, including domestic work, which puts undue burden. While Senator Fawzia Arshad stated that women have tremendous potential to empower themselves and that women from all spheres of life have the capability to succeed. She urged women to make themselves strong enough to raise their voice for the issues. Similarly, Farhat Ullah Babar, stated that it is the responsibility of the parliamentarians to ensure that we first a create safe environment in the parliament and the country, which will then naturally lead to safe working environments for women. He commended the hard work that women did over the past decades to promote their rights, especially highlighting how hard women politicians work, and that every political party has produced great woman leaders.
Experts from various fields took to the stage for a panel discussion on the issues faced by women in the workplace, and demands for better working condition, as well as the role of policymaking for safe working environments for women. Myra Imran, seasoned journalist and Vice President of the National Press Club stated that she found women journalists to be more determined and hard working than male journalists, and often cover women issues-related beats, such as domestic violence, health and women empowerment. She also stated that the Press Club now has a dedicated room for women journalists only. Dr. Shahla Tabassum, Head of the Gender Studies Department at Fatima Jinnah Women University stressed the need of not only conducive working environments for women, but also conducive educational environments for women. She stated that FJWU was the first ever university to remove age bar for students, so that women who had spent their younger years in raising children, still had the opportunity to continue their education. Moreover, she also brought up the troubles women face with menstruation, which is often deemed to be a taboo topic, yet it is something that all women go through. Despite that, due to lack of separate toilets, and expensive menstrual hygiene products, women face a lot of issues. She stated that menstrual products need to be provided for free by the government. Dr. Tahira Shahid, a doctor, broadcaster and health activist stated that many women lose their jobs when they are not willing to offer favours and also that many working women have their mental health badly affected.
Members of the Women Workers Alliance spoke up at the event to highlight the importance of equal participation of women in the workplace, not only for their own financial independence, but also for economic prosperity. Ms. Zahida Perveen, member of the WWA stated that efforts need to be done for the ratification of C-190 of the ILO, while Ms. Mussarat Jabeen highlighted in their Charter of Demands that with rapidly increasing inflation and increase in petrol and other commodities, wages need to to also simultaneously be increased. Ms. Mehar Nigar of the WWA stated that women’s representation in decision making bodies is much lower than that of men and that it needs changing. Furthermore, employers need to ensure that regular increments are offered to their staff.
Concluding the event, Syed Kausar Abbas, the Executive Director of SSDO mentioned that such events were organized to give women a platform to voice their concerns, and advocate for not only a safe workplace, but a safer society as a whole. He stated that SSDO has been working towards advocating for women’s labour rights, and will continue doing so, especially with the support of dedicated working women such as those in the audience.