Aug 26, 2019

Sindh: Cabinet approves draft bill on women agricultural workers

The draft of the Sindh Women Agricultural Workers Bill 2019, which aims at empowering the women of the rural swathes of the province and improving their social security, was approved on Saturday by the Sindh cabinet. If the act was to go through, Sindh would set an important precedent in South Asia in terms of women’s labor rights and gender equality. Being subject to bonded labor, forced marriage and forced conversions, women and girls in Sindh are particularly vulnerable to human rights violations, which are widespread in the region due to Pakistan’s repressive policy towards ethnic and religious minorities.

The article below was published by The Express Tribune:


The Sindh Cabinet approved on Saturday the ‘Sindh Women Agricultural Workers draft Bill 2019’ under which female workers in agriculture, livestock, fisheries or other agro-based work would be given the rights and benefits which are given to workers in the industrial sector. With this law, Sindh would be the first province to have taken such a decision in South Asia.

The cabinet meeting was chaired by Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah at the New Sindh Secretariat and was attended by ministers, advisers and special assistants to the CM. The meeting discussed 12 items on the agenda.

Sindh Labour Minister Saeed Ghani presented the Sindh Women Agriculture Workers bill. While briefing the cabinet on the salient features of the bill, Ghani informed that over three quarters of female labourers in the country were employed in the agriculture sector. “Over half of these women are reported as unpaid family helpers,” said the CM while crediting the bill to Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari who he claimed had stressed on the need for supporting female agriculture workers.

The bill, which would soon be moved in Sindh Assembly for legislation, proposed that female agriculture workers receive pay in cash or in kind for any kind of agriculture work, whether undertaken individually or as part of a family unit, on land and livestock belonging to her own family or someone else. The proposed bill states that the pay for the female labourers would be equal to the pay received by male labourers for the same work.

Besides, the bill specifies, the pay for the female agriculture worker shall not be less than the minimum wage fixed by the government from time to time and the work day shall not exceed eight working hours and shall not commence until one hour after day break. The worker shall also be entitled to 90 days of maternity leave.

The proposed law would give the female worker the right to access government agricultural, livestock, fisheries and other services, credit, social security, subsidies and asset transfers in her own individual right or in association with other female agricultural workers. A female worker would also be entitled to receive a written contract of employment if she so demands. The law would also give the woman the rights of collective bargaining, social welfare including child health, community development, economic profit and access to publicly supplied goods and services.

The government would register the female agriculture workers, through the labour department, at every union council level. The registered labourers would be given the Benazir Card and holders would be able to make their groups or association.

The bill added that the Sindh government would set up Benazir Women’s Support Organisation (BWSO) under the labour department with an Empowerment Fund to provide technical and financial assistance to women workers. The organisation would register them, issue cards and maintain a data base for their support.


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Photo courtesy of DFID UK/Flickr