SOS FROM UNPAID WOMEN LABORS

Corporate Farming to End Women's Economic Depredation

TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI-TARIQSAEEDI@HOTMAIL.COM
Nov 05 - 11, 2007

The number of working women outnumbers working man in Pakistan, engaged in the economic activities in formal and informal sectors.

This number visibly crosses significantly in case of agriculture, which is known as the primary sector of the nation's economy. Being an agriculture-driven economy, Pakistan has abundance of natural resources and produces farm goods for national as well as international consumption. Few of the precious crops, Pakistan produces, are rice, cotton, and sugar. It is said that ploughing and harvesting of these crops muster an unmatchable human energies to any other activity: both physical and psychological. Agriculture sector, by and large, is highly dependent on human resource inputs in Pakistan. This accounts for a major source of revenue in the balance of payment. It is an open secret that in our nation technology has not been harnessed in its full form, owing to some vested interests. Certainly, the need of factor of production i.e. human is increased. Usually women, who form the major portion of the population, are exploited to carry forward daunting and energy-consuming tasks in agriculture fields. They are considered docile enough to perform those farming process, which anybody has courage to do, merely against three times meals. Patriarchal structure of our society, religious camouflage, laggards, and social sadistic norms and values compel them to survive in this vicious circle of obtaining livelihood like unpaid and "silent" labors.

Women are participated in the agricultural activities in most of the rural and far-flung areas of the nation to earn bread and butter for their family folks and for them. In a season, when rice and cotton crops are sowed, farmers especially women are seen ploughing seeds, one by one, into the farm land. They bow down repeatedly to complete the process. Imagine! How it is like that to perform this act thousands time in a day. Obviously, their abdominal part of the body is highly affected and the job causes sometimes severe backache and bone disorders. If not due to this process, strolling through muddy water while sowing saps out their energy level to zilch. Male folks often are reluctant to help them out as they are better enough to involve in price negotiation of their harvested crops. Secondly, women can be hired on a mere subsistence. Let alone ploughing, while harvesting women farmers often lose their thumb nails during picking off cottons. As, the blade is so sharp that damages hands and legs to injure. And it is very common. Again, machine is not used for these processes because of cheap availability of labors. Horrifying fact is that women are sold out by their own families to land owner against a price of few thousand rupees; less than a price of buffalo. This makes woman a "legal" property of the land lord, who could utilize her at ease. Every now and then, published reports of financial institution boasts of its fiscal year achievement in terms of extending loan facilities to farmers. What, in reality, has been changed and is being changed. Where the lending amount is being invested? One can understand that commercial banks don't have control over the usage of lending amount. But there must be a post-lending evaluation after all, to know usability of that money.

Injunctions of Islam are comfortably abused in the rural areas of the nation. The religion accepts polygamy of a male and the social relaxation gives him a comfort zone to have more than one wife. Knowing that wife could not demand him money for work. Woman falls prey to the depredation of her spouse, whose intention remains to induct cheap but profitable production agent on the farmlands. The close knitted structure of rural areas and its seeking after group solution for a problem stave government off the scene. Very few instances are there when rural women vociferously protested against their marginalization. Education and their exposure to outer world need to be enhanced. Otherwise, they will keep in the everlasting spiral of silence.

DISTRICT RESOURCE CENTERS:

The concept of district resource centers and skills development institutions is emerging as a good sign for rural women. These centers aim at revamping the skills of women and get them acquaintance with their potentials. Of course, with available resources, rural women have enormous potentials to not only earn money but to become a productive asset of the economy. Women farmers waste their available resources into vain due to the lack of utilization of their creative instincts. They laboriously perform on farm lands: just ploughing, reaping and related processes. Often these processes bring up raw farm produces, which are transported finally in the market for sale. They may be guided to transform these produces into finished products, which can give them a significant marginal advantage. On one hand, they will become self sustainable and they could contribute to nation economic building on the other.

Karim Siddiqui, Director Manpower and Training Sindh, holding an additional charge of MD STEVTA, while talking to PAGE, advocated the skill development and enhancement of women, working in the agriculture sector. He said despite eighty percent contribution of this sector in the mainstream economy it would not have been focused as much. Rural women are contributing their days and nights for agriculture growth. But the outcomes for them are pathetically low. They are unpaid and cheap labors. Reformation of this sector is urgently needed. Until the services of women farmers are dully recognized by their landlords, he sees reforms a faraway. Agriculture sector should become a service based industry. He thinks that corporate farming could revolutionize agriculture sector of Pakistan. That implies establishing of formal chain of production process from sowing of seeds to packaging. Value addition is as complicated as lucrative for both farmers and the nation. And only farmers could step up to add values into their farm produces. He volunteered himself to initiate setting up of effective and result oriented skill development centers in the rural areas to educate farmers about the modern methodologies and management tactics.

Agriculture sector of Pakistan is operating like an informal industry. Wages are low and regularized by no formal body. Subsequently, there is no monitory mechanism for working conditions. Farmers, especially women, have no option than to continue working around dilapidated and inhuman conditions. Above all, there must be an immediate curb on the causes and harsh practices of having unpaid women labors.