We never thought that we will also get a chance to have such a privileged training organized by an international organization like the ILO. Such trainings have always been for the large enterprises but has rarely been extended to small enterprises like ours, especially in districts like Charsadda"Said one of the owners of a shawl producing enterprise from Charsadda district
A one day long training for each group was organized at the Pearl Continental Hotel, Peshawar. On the first day, 10 small scale textile enterprises, belonging to Matta Mughal Khel area of the Charsadda district, specializing in producing hand and machine woven shawls were invited, on the second day workers and management of 10 small marble factories in Peshawar were invited, whereas on the third day a medium level textile enterprise from Takhtbhai, Mardan was trained in OSH.
The participants of the training were delighted, and thanked ILO for considering their factories for such trainings. According to them, this was the first training of its kind that they had participated in, which actually focused on worker safety and health. The participants also requested ILO that another training of the same kind shall be arranged at their factory sites, so that female members working with them can also join, who were unable to become part of these trainings due to cultural limitations and are a fundamental part of their businesses.
We had never been to any hotels. We would always fancy hotels as something we can never afford. It was this reason why, we were hesitant when we first arrived at the training venue. We thought that we would not be allowed inside by the guards, however when we introduced ourselves, not only were we allowed inside but rather also treated with immense care and respect, which was truly encouraging for us. It actually added to our self- confidence and for the first time we also felt important and respected for the work that we do "According to one participant
The training was also attended by representatives from the Labour Department of the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan Workers Federation, Employers Federation of Pakistan and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority. They appreciated the efforts of ILO and encouraged the participating enterprises to implement OSH improvements required in their enterprises. It was also shared with the participating employers and workers that with improved safety and health conditions, not only would their productivity improve, but it would also increase their chances of finding more international buyers, as then they would be more compliant with international labour standards, which is one of the preconditions of many buyers especially belonging to the European market.
One of the biggest extracts of the training was that most of the workers, who according to them had never been out of Charsadda district or had experienced visiting a hotel, when travelled to Peshawar and attended the training , claimed that it had a major impact on their self-confidence and perception about themselves. According to one of the participants:
“We had never been to any hotels. We would always fancy hotels as something we can never afford. It was this reason why, we were hesitant when we first arrived at the training venue. We thought that we would not be allowed inside by the guards, however when we introduced ourselves, not only were we allowed inside but rather also treated with immense care and respect, which was truly encouraging for us. It actually added to our self- confidence and for the first time we also felt important and respected for the work that we do”.
Matta Mughal Khel area of Charsadda district has specialized in producing shawls since past many decades, and can be termed as the community of weavers which has remained underprivileged due to their inability to expand mainly because of financial constraints, power outage and lack of required market exposure. They work as a community with many small enterprises, also facilitated by female workers who work from their homes. They have received various grants, as well as have upgraded from hand woven looms to machine woven looms, however still a lot needs to be done before they can come at par with other exporting giants across the country (Zeb & Afridi, 2010).