KARACHI   -   The Sindh government lacks both empathy and sympathy with the rural women of Sindh; thus, rural women are the worst sufferers of economic, social and political issues in the province.

This observation was made by the Hari Welfare Association (HWA), a peasant rights body. “Rural women are victims of poverty, debt bondage, slavery, forced marriages, honour killings, child marriages, domestic violence, abuse and malnutrition. They are also deprived of health and education services and kept away from economic and political opportunities,” said the HWA.

From 2014 to 2019, 769 people were killed in the name of honour and 66 percent of the victims were women and girls in Sindh. These figures are horrific details of the controlled society of tribal and feudal lords, the body said.

Criticising the Pakistan Peoples Party’s provincial government, the HWA said that it was famous for introducing human, child and women rights protection laws. However, the implementation of laws had remained a severe problem in the same government.

In December 2019, the Sindh Women Agriculture Workers’ Act was passed in the Sindh Assembly, but the government neither made any budgetary allocations nor devised any plan of action or policy to implement the law to protect the peasant women, said the HWA. According to the 2017 Census, Sindh’s total population was 47.883 million, of whom 22.956 million (48 per cent) were females, mainly in rural parts of Sindh, where the literacy rate is 45 per cent as compared to 80 per cent in urban areas. 

The low literacy rate in rural areas means most women and girls are not being sent to school because of the absence of girls’ schools, female teachers, or feudal and tribal systems, which control the society.

The HWA said that in Tharparkar, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, Dadu, Jacobabad, and Badin districts, women lived in the worst conditions, almost without access to health and education services and facilities.

Rural women praised

Speaking at a programme held in connection with International Day of Rural Women 2020, Women farmers, water activists and people from academia praised the rural women for their resilience during natural calamities, such as floods, coronavirus pandemic and locust attacks. The event was organised by the Management and Development Foundation (MDF).

A large number of rural women hailing from different villages of Hyderabad and Tando Muhammad Khan districts shared their experiences at the event.

Ayaz Latif Palijo, the Qaumi Awami Tehreek (QAT) president, said there were laws granting equal rights to women. Women may possess land and have livestock and business to earn money for their families, he added.

He praised the rural women for engaging in poultry farming and other works, besides educating their daughters. There was no harm in educating girls, he remarked.

Palijo was of the view that women should take initiatives about their empowerment. They should have the courage to resist, he said, adding that there were traditional hindrances in the way of women in the tribal and some rural areas of Sindh. He encouraged the women to come forward to work and fight for their rights.

Prof Muhammad Ismail Kumbhar from the Sindh Agriculture University, Tando Jam, said rural women had to perform various tasks ranging from working in agriculture fields and looking after livestock to water management.

He said whenever natural disasters like floods hit their areas, the rural women remained on the frontline to face the direct effects of it. These women must be encouraged during the present time as they are stitching masks to earn little income, he added. He said now the entire province was facing the aftermath of the rains and a large area was still submerged. Hundreds of displaced families are staying at roadsides, railway tracks and canal embankments without food, he lamented.

Mustafa Rajpar, the MDF chief executive officer, said they had been working with rural women of three districts, Badin, Tando Muhammad Khan, and Hyderabad, for three years on water management and peace. He said they had been successful in motivating parliamentarians to discuss the water ordinance amendment, which was yet to be promulgated by the Sindh Assembly. He added that through this ordinance, around 90,000 women would benefit.

Water activist Zulfiqar Halepoto, peasant woman Mai Nasreen and project leader Kiran Daudpoto also spoke at the occasion.