SIALKOT - Over 4,000 out of a total of 16,000 jobless home-based workers, most of them football stitchers have been adjusted in the other jobs through their micro-entrepreneurship development.

Another batch of 2,000 more such female stitchers would also be adjusted in their new jobs next year. In Sialkot, the soccer balls industry’s 16,000 female stitchers, indulged in the hand stitching of footballs, had been rendered jobless due to the change of the trend of the footballs’ production from hand stitching to the machine stitching about four years ago.

The manufacturers and exporters Safdar Sandal, Khalid Mehmood, M Iqbal, Ghulam Husain and others said that hand-stitched inflatable soccer balls had historically been Sialkot’s major product. In recent years, the mechanization of the manufacturing process of inflatable balls had drastically reduced the demand for hand-stitched balls. As a result, more and more international buyers were demanding machine-stitched balls rendering hundreds of thousands of home-based stitchers jobless, they added.

The female workers were the only source of income of their families and after becoming jobless it had become very hard for them to feed their families.

Labor policies (National- 2010 and 2015- Provincial) and law do not legally recognise these workers in the informal sector as workers cannot have claims in labor courts to protect their rights. Left on their own, a majority of these workers lack skills, expertise, competence and linkages needed to access the income alternatives.

UN-WOMEN, Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) and NGO Baidarie-Sialkot launched a welfare project “Integrated Support for Socioeconomic Rehabilitation of the jobless/ vulnerable women home based Soccer Stitchers” several years ago. The goal of the project was to ensure maximum empowerment of these HBWs through training enabling them to start their small businesses. “It has taken about four years to us to provide them the necessary training of the other alternative skills and to provide them their new jobs to as many as 4000 female workers out of total 16000”, said Arshad Mehmood Mirza.