Rural cotton-picking women workers’ sensitised on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work

Six community level awareness-raising seminars on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (FPRW) were organized by the Sindh Agricultural & Forestry Workers Coordinating Organization (SAFWCO) in Sanghar, Sindh Province with the support of ILO's INDITEX funded project.

Press release | Sanghar, Pakistan | 12 July 2021
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (ILO News): Over 150 participants - cotton-picking women attended six seminars on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (FPRW) organized by the Sindh Agricultural & Forestry Workers Coordinating Organization (SAFWCO) from 21 to 26 June 2021 in the remote areas of district Sanghar-Sindh Province, Pakistan. These awareness-raising seminars were arranged under ILO’s INDITEX funded Project on promoting Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work in the Cotton Supply Chain. The local community contributed and supported the seminars by providing their homes for arranging the awareness raising seminars.

Mr Arjum Kumar, Senior Master Trainer on Labour Law, Human Rights and OSH, Ms Farha Kashif, Resource Person from SAFWCO and Mr Ijaz Ahmed, National Project Coordinator ILO introduced FPRW and OSH using local standpoints. The participants were sensitized on the importance of FPRW, informed of their constitutional and legislative rights, and remedies available within the national laws and regulatory institutions concerning social protection. The information on existing channels to secure legal, social and economic support were also shared and discussed with participants and sensitized on the concepts of social dialogue and tripartism and the Public-Private Partnership between the ILO and INDITEX, to promote FPRW in the cotton supply chain. The information, education and communication materials on FPRW i.e. posters, colouring books, leaflets, etc. in Sindhi, produced under the project, were distributed to improve the understanding of FPRW and OSH practices, including COVID-19 preventative measures. These seminars increased FPRW awareness of participants and provided an opportunity for the female cotton growers to raise their voice on the challenges they face while working in the cotton farms.

The participants raised several social, economic and cultural challenges that they were facing, including child labour, forced labour, child education, unemployment, low wages, time-off, discrimination as well as poverty and discussed the possible solutions. Some participants said that they were hearing about FPRW for the first time. The women cotton workers expressed keen interest to form a trade union for collective bargaining. The local community influential assured their full cooperation towards the project and requested long-term interventions for deprived cotton workers and small farmers.

Mr Suleman G. Abro, Founder & President of SAFWCO, virtually addressed the participants. He thanked the ILO and INDITEX for providing technical assistance for the pilot intervention, which is benefiting the underprivileged communities in far-off areas. He said that SAFWCO would adopt integrated approaches in implementing overall project activities and enhance their coordination with the relevant Government Departments to establish linkages of the cotton communities with the available social safety nets.

The ILO team comprising of Ms Ingrid Christensen-Director ILO Country Office for Pakistan, Mr Insaf Nizam-Specialist FPRW DWT South Asia, Ms Belinda Chanda- Programme Analyst, Mr Saad Gilani-Senior Programme Officer and Mr. Saghir Bukhari- Senior Programme Officer joined the seminars virtually and delivered key messages on FPRW. They appreciated the efforts of SAFWCO team in arranging the seminars on FPRW for the cotton-growing women in remote areas. They applauded participants for their active participation and highlighted the importance of FPRW and Occupational Safety and Health (OSH), particularly for a sustainable cotton supply chain in Pakistan. The ILO team also thanked the representatives of the Government departments for their support towards the project particularly in linking the vulnerable cotton producing communities to the existing social protections schemes such as senior citizen card.

During one of the sessions, a young girl, Ms Eram Fatima of Khudadad Kapri village, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Education, declared that she would volunteer her services by providing free education to children of her village who are involved in cotton growing. She added that there were no proper educational and health facilities and no electivity in her village and several other villages of the Union Council (Soomar Faqeer Hingoro) where she lived. Ms Ingrid Christensen appreciated the enthusiasm of Ms. Eram to change lives of the people of her village, particularly of working children. Ms. Christensen also expressed her gratitude to INDITEX for supporting an important project.