Speakers at provincial dialogue on issues and problems of women cotton pickers demanded for legalisation for appropriate and increased wage as per inflation rate by government for cotton pickers organised by Sindh Community Foundation on Tuesday.

They said that Pakistan’s economy is based on agriculture. Pakistan is fourth in the world of top ten leading cotton producing countries after China, India, Unites States in 2013/2014 (in 1,000 metric tons).. It has been estimated that women account for 23.55pc in cotton areas. Cotton is one of the major cash crops of Sindh province of Pakistan. Sanghar, Ghotki, Khairpur, Umerkot, Matiari are the major cotton producing districts in Sindh but the labours engaged in cotton picking are facing worst situation including low wages and poor working conditions. More than half million women cotton pickers are engaged in these districts, they added.

They said the EU granted GSP Plus status to Pakistan granting Pakistani products a duty free access to the European market but nor such regulator body has been formed to curb exploitation in textile and agriculture sector. Researcher Haris Gazadr said the rural workers in agriculture sector are experiencing miserable condition in rural Sindh.

He pointed out that mostly non-Muslim women are involved in cotton picking receiving less income in due seasons. There is need to improve the living conduction of labours involved in cotton picking as they have very low nutrition status and limited access to livelihoods.

Mahnaz Rhaman of Aurat Foundation said that economic reform makes society more vibrant and empowered women.

Javed Hussain of Sindh Community Foundation was of the view that government takes no such initiatives steps to safe them.

Tofeeq Ahmed of Labor Department said that government is trying to improve the working conditions of labour through legislation, NGOs can help labourers to exercise their rights under Industrial Relation Act.

Punhal Saryo of Sindh Hari Porhyat Council said that landlessness is one of the reasons of marginalisation of rural agriculture workers; he demanded to start third phase land distribution among women it should be focused on landless women working in cotton crop.

Shahnaz Sheedi, Women cotton picker Padmi and others also spoke on the occasion.