The Women Development Department in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the All Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA) on February 19 launched Decent Work for Domestic Workers (DW4DW), a skill development initiative to train 1,000 women at the APWA’s premises in Lahore.
APWA Chairperson Ruhi Sayyid said, “There is a lack of reliable data…There are approximately 8.5 million domestic workers in Pakistan, most of them women…they also include a large number of boys and girls.”
She said domestic workers were a significant portion of the informal economy. These workers remain unregulated, are not covered by labour laws…are also vulnerable to all kinds of exploitation, she said.
Programme Manager Durre Shahwar told The Express Tribune that the programme aimed to provide high quality training to women in communication, health, safety and security in domestic work environment, personal health and safety, planning, organising and managing their work.
The APWA’s premises will be modified into a training facility and four staff members will be trained as co-facilitators to conduct similar training sessions in the future. She said upon completing training, the participants will be registered with placement service providers.
Shahwar said the women will also be taught basic principles of hygiene and how to clean and maintain bedrooms. She said the programme aimed at training women as certified domestic workers with enhanced capacities to manage household tasks.
She said they also aimed to establish a data bank of trainees and link them to placement service providers, initiate a legislative framework for domestic workers and advocate for the ratification of the ILO convention on domestic workers. “We hope to engage women parliamentarians in this programme,” said Shahwar.
She said at least 90 per cent of the trainees will be able to get jobs that will raise their income levels by 30 to 50 per cent.
She said the women would also be trained in occupational health and safety, personal hygiene and grooming, time management, protection against various types of harassment and communication and negotiation skills, and made aware of their rights and responsibilities.
The APWA will also advocate minimum wage legislation for domestic workers and mandatory written contracts between employees and employers specifying responsibilities, work hours, time of wage payment, benefits and notice periods, she said.
Advocate Shamsa Ali, head of legal aid at the APWA, said in 2011 the ILO had adopted the Domestic Workers’ Convention 189. She said the C-189 called for specific protection to domestic workers. The standards specified under it had helped create a momentum for the recognition of domestic workers as employees with salient rights, just like any other worker.
Salient features of the convention include the promotion and protection of human rights for all domestic workers, respect for fundamental principles and rights at work, freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, protection against all forms of abuse, harassment and violence, fair terms of employment and decent living conditions, reasonable working hours, weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours, a limit on in-kind payment and clear information on the terms and conditions of employment.
Ali said if Pakistan ratified the C-189, the status of domestic workers could be enhanced. It would also reflect well on the government showing its commitment to human and workers’ rights and women’s empowerment.
She said several countries had started changing policies and laws on domestic workers. In Pakistan, a bill has been drafted and recently submitted to the Senate. Ali said the bill carried elaborate provisions on age, contract signing, minimum wage, social security and formation of associations or trade unions. “This is a welcome step, but if we really want to make a difference, we need a profound change in attitude towards the profession,” she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2014.