KARACHI: Women of World Festival inaugurated here on Sunday with a panel discussion “Best of Times, Worst of Times” attended by I. A. Rehman, Secretary General of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Jude Kelly, founder of Women of World Festival, women rights activist Tahira Abdullah, Nimco Ali and Jim Booth.
Jointly organized by British Council of Pakistan along with Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), Collective for Social Sciences Research and Association of Entrepreneurial women, the Women of World comprised of various activities including seminars, workshops and music activities.
Speaking at the inaugural panel, the speakers expressed both pessimism and optimism of the situation concerning to women in Pakistan. The legislations pertaining to women’s rights are there, but the main concern expressed on the occasion was their implementation. The international awards to Sharmeen Obaid Chinoi and Malala Yousufzai and courage by Mukhtar Mai.
PILER organized three workshop on the occasion, concerning to the labour and working class. The first workshop was on “Women’s Rights at the Workplace”. Zulfiqar Shah, Joint Director of PILER conducted the workshop.
Speaking on the occasion, Karamat Ali, Executive Director,PILER said wage differential on sex basis exists in almost all sectors of economy in Pakistan. Women are largely working in garments and allied industries, but in this sector their wages against men’s work are different and less. This gap in wages is around 45 to 50 percent less than the wages of males. In Sindh the minimum wages are fixed at Rs. 13,000, but unfortunately there is no mechanism to implement minimum wages in private sector. Contract system in employment is the main reason of less wages in Pakistan. Our attitude towards remuneration of women is arbitrarily and discriminatory, he added.
He said that according to a survey by PILER some years ago, about 98 percent women were not in the union.
Factory inspection in Pakistan is virtually banned and there are 541 inspectors in the entire Pakistan, out of which only 17 are women. “If we assume there are more than 100,000 industrial units and if such number of inspectors go to each unit on annual basis the next turn for each unit would come after 50 years.”
Nosheen Ahmed, advocate, Company Secretary of Habib Bank said under the labour law there are some benefits for women and they can enjoy flexible working hours or cannot work in night hours and enjoy maternity leave, but those laws are not implemented in many organizations. The Shops and Establishment Ordinance is an important law which can be used by women to get their benefits.
She advised the women workers to get their appointment letters or contract of employment before joining a job. Terms and conditions should be in written form. Labour courts can also deal the labour maters when all terms and conditions are written and job description is available.
Ms. Uzma Al-Karim from the office of Provincial Ombudsman Sindh for Protection against Harassment of Women at the Work Place explained the background of the law and its implementation mechanism. She said the Ombudsman office has established complaint centers at district levels. Presently 28 such centers have been established in Sindh.
In 2015 Ombudsman office received total 116 complaints. The office had received 38 cases in 2014. Till March in 2016 total 215 cases have been received. The Ombudsman office has so far resolved 185 cases. The Ombudsman office works as parallel court, not a penal court because of its confidential nature of cases of sexual harassment at workplaces.
She explained what harassment is and what are the acts of harassment. Explaining the procedure for filing a complaint, she said every organization should have an Inquiry Committee, consisting of at least 3 members; one of them must be a female member. If a committee does not exist in your office, the employees can inform the office of Ombudsman. The committee receives a complaint which needs to be decided within 30 days.
The second workshop was held on “How to become an effective volunteer?” Ms. Zeenia Shaukat conducted the workshop.
Ms. Zubiada Mustafa, senior journalist and columnist said volunteerism should be a work free of cost. It is for spiritual satisfaction. There is a need that every citizen takes part in volunteerism by contributing time and resources. She said there should be structure for dedicating time for volunteerism in an organization. She recalled her experience of volunteerism while working for a garage school and said there is a lot of scope of working as volunteerism.
The third workshop was on “How to start a business in (under) Rs. 100,000.” Ms. Soha Zulfiqar from IBA Women Entrepreneurial Development, Ms. Farhat Fatima, Masooma Lotia and Rabia spoke on the occasion and share their experiences. Ms. Soha explained the women entrepreneur programme and how a woman can start her business with small resources.
She advised the youth to work with what’s already within their control. She said start with what is in hand and what is your qualification. Networking and partnership with likeminded people be built.
A large number of people including women, labour leaders and students attended these workshops.