By Zehra Khan, Home-Based Women Workers' Federation
Thousands of working class women marched with red flags through the streets of busy Sadder area in Karachi to press for their demands to be accepted as workers and covered under social security schemes and for regulations to protect women health workers. The rally was organized by Home Based Women Workers' Federation (HBWWF) and Lady Health Workers' Association (LHWA) to commemorate the 101st International Women's Day (IWD) on March 8th.
The rally started at Regal Chowk and culminated at Karachi Press Club. Rally participants carried placards and banners demonstrating their demands and chanted slogans to highlight their struggles.
At the end of the rally, addressing the gathering of women workers, leaders said that March 8th would be remembered as day of struggle and to recognize the sacrifices of working women who light the flame of movement to liberate women globally from all kinds of discrimination and injustice. The speakers pledged to continue their movement despite any circumstances they may face to achieve the equal rights and elimination of all laws, customs and traditions which call them second class citizens and lesser human beings. Women have been deprived of their basic rights in the name of religion and reactionary traditions rooted in feudalism, while the capitalist system has treated women as cheap labor and a market commodity.
The speakers explained that nearly 12 million women contribute to the Pakistani economy through their production as home-based workers in different industrial and commercial sectors including garments, leather, embroidery, sports goods, shoe making, glass bangles and many other sectors without their role being recognized by the country's labour laws. Since Pakistan laws don't recognize them as workers they are not covered under state-run social security schemes covering health insurance, education, and pensions. They also said that ILO Convention 177 on Home Work asks the government to recognize home-based women workers as workers under the law and to formulate national policy for the progress and well-being of the most oppressed and vulnerable sector of workers -- the home-based women workers.