Today, on this International Women’s Day, marks four months since a major political breakthrough for women in Pakistan. On the 8th of November 2016, the Home-Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) gained legal recognition in the Sindh province of Pakistan.
This decision allows Pakistani home workers (of which 80% are women) to be registered with the social security institution, as well as allowing them to join the workers’ welfare board. This allows 12 million home workers to receive benefits in health, education and housing, as well as retirement benefits.
It has been a long journey for the HBWWF. Starting out with informal meetings between female home-workers in 2001, the group grew into a federation by 2005 and today has 4,500 members.
Before pivoting towards workers’ rights, the group campaigned for improved local services, such as sewage and rubbish removal, as well as demanding that the government address domestic violence. Eventually they started consulting with trade unions and focusing on rights for home-workers and the results can be seen today.
Despite the work that the HBWWF has done for female workers in Pakistan, they do not consider themselves a party for women, as secretary general Zehra Khan told the Guardian, ““It’s neither gender- nor women-focused – our focus is class, and should be seen through the lens of a labour movement.”