‘Women peasants in rural Sindh face multiple challenges’


Despite being a significant demographic, the conditions of women workers and peasants in rural Sindh remain a pressing concern. A report titled ‘Assessing the Conditions of Women Workers and Peasants in Rural Sindh’, launched by the Hari Welfare Association sheds light on this issue. The report provides comprehensive evidence on the challenges faced by women peasants and workers, offering valuable insights into gender roles in agriculture, fisheries, and livestock. It advocates for a more inclusive and equitable agricultural sector in Sindh.

The report further highlights that despite various laws aimed at addressing women’s issues, there is a notable gap in their implementation concerning women in rural occupations. For instance, the Benazir Women Support Programme under the SWAWA faces challenges due to its complex and unimplemented board structure. Additionally, the Women Development Department has not adequately addressed the needs of rural women.

In terms of land ownership, 98.7% of women in rural Sindh lack land ownership, which poses significant challenges, from poor harvests to a lack of property rights. While initiatives such as the Sindh Benazir Income Support Programme, concerns about dependency instead of empowerment persist. The report also highlights educational disparities, with rural women facing a stark gender disparity in education. Illiteracy among women affects their awareness of their rights, hindering their empowerment and perpetuating a cycle of poverty. Healthcare access is another area of concern, with women peasants and rural workers lacking adequate access to healthcare, resulting in high maternal mortality rates. Social, cultural, religious, and economic barriers further compound the challenges faced by women in rural Sindh.

The report calls for comprehensive interventions to address the multifaceted challenges faced by women workers and peasants in rural Sindh. It emphasizes the need for effective implementation of existing laws and the importance of initiatives aimed at empowering women in the region.

Anis Haroon Member National Commission for Human Rights Pakistan said that there should be a political will to implement existing women specific laws, and the elected members must ensure and protect the rights of voters.

Iqbal Ahmed Detho, Chairperson of the Sindh Human Rights Commission, engaged in discussions regarding the implementation of rights and obligations, touching upon the significance of The Sindh Tenancy Act of 1950 and addressing issues between Hari labourers and landlords. He provided insights into prevalent attitudes and mindsets within society, alongside discussions on land reforms and the findings of the national nutrition survey.

Detho emphasised the importance of agricultural items and proposed the potential for Khairpur and Larkana to evolve into agro-industrial centres.

Akram Ali, President Hari Welfare Association said that the (HWA) noted that despite existing laws, gender inequality persists in Sindh’s agriculture sector. For instance, the 2019 Sindh Women Agriculture Workers Act (SWAWA) recognises women’s contributions but challenges implementation. While the law mandates fair payment and the formation of associations, most rural women do not receive minimum wages, and unionisation remains difficult. Similarly, the 2002 Sindh Water Management Ordinance was amended in 2021 to enhance women’s involvement, but bureaucratic indifference hampers implementation.

Pirbhu Lal Stayani Member National Commission on The Rights of Child – (NCRC) said that child labour in agriculture sector is increasing, child girls are deprived of education and other rights, NCRC is going to criminalise child domestic labour through proposing prohibition of Child Domestic Labour Bill 2024.

Kousar S Khan, a researcher on women rights, demanded that every woman should have at least two acres of agriculture land for her survival. Government should ensure to provide social protection including minimum wage to the agriculture women workers.

Rida Tahir, legal adviser, at SHRC, emphasised the significance of the Women Agricultural Act of 2019, which ensures access to personal protective equipment.

She also spoke regarding the Sindh Maternity Benefits Act 2018, which provides maternity benefits to women and the establishment of day-care centres to increase the labour force participation of women.

Basran, women trade union leader from Shaheed Benazirabad, shared that they lost their homes and belongings in floods in 2022 and were compelled to drink contaminated water and sleep in open areas. Peasant women are living their lives in miserable conditions. Millions of women in the agriculture sector are exploited by their landlords and contractors, they don’t have any social protection.

Riaz Ahmed Jakharani, Deputy Secretary Law said that Sindh passed 156 laws during the last five years of its tenure, from which many laws are related to human rights protection.

Farkhanda Memon from Human Rights Department, Rejo Mal from Labour department, Isahaq Soomro, Aijaz Ali Khoawja, Saeed Baloch, and Abdul Razak Memon also spoke on the occasion.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2024.

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