A total of 16,000 female home-based workers who make soccer balls by hands have gone jobless due to growing trend of manufacturing of footballs through machines, resultantly, these worker and their families are facing great financial problems.

These workers have no scope to be inducted in the production of manufacturing of soccer balls through machines in Sialkot city. The situation was discussed during an orientation session held on Integrated Support to HBWs in Sialkot district at the auditorium of Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry, jointly organised by International labour Organisation and a non-profit organisation.

Consultants and stakeholders including Ms Sajila Khan, gender advisor of the International Labour Organisation-ILO Islamabad; Karachi based consultant Naveed Hussain; Khawaja Zakauddin, one of the pioneers of Sialkot’s soccer balls industry; Acting President of SCCI Mian Muhammad Anwar; and Arshad Mehmood Mirza, executive director of NGO Baidarie among others were present.

The speakers pointed out that the 16,000 jobless workers were willing to indulge themselves into other jobs or to run their own small businesses but they could not do it because of having no skills and no capacity of doing other jobs, and they have also been suffering from serious health hazards. They stressed a need for making some effective and urgent and joint efforts for the skill development, capacity-building and access to the local job markets for these women workers in Sialkot. All the stakeholders should come forward to proceed towards this goal on harmonious grounds, they stressed.

The Karachi based consultant disclosed that ILO and GO Baidarie-Sialkot had jointly conducted a study on the problems of home based women workers in Sialkot. According to the study report, he added, the jobless HBWs only knew stitching and now, the manufacturing of machine-stitched footballs was on the peak. He said that they do not have the knowledge of their rights.

Ms Sajila Khan said that ILO would ensure empowerment of the HBWs by ensuring the early training of some other skills for their capacity building, enabling the HBWs to start their small businesses, besides, ensuring early provision of safe and secure working environment in the local work places. She also stressed a need for establishment of the strong linkages between the HMWs and the job providers, globally known for producing the world class sports gears. She said that the International Labour Organisation would provide all the technical and financial assistance to the HBWs in Sialkot.

All the stakeholders were astonished to say that no department has the actual record and data of the home based women workers in Sialkot district. The house was told that the ILO and Baidarie have started training of advanced skilled and capacity building of 100 selected females and established a stitching-cum-production centre at village Roras-Sambrial.

They also called for early policy making and legislation for the welfare of the house based workers, urging the government to ensure capacity-building of the home based workers, provision of better working opportunities to them, their training regarding advanced technologies, their access to markets and equality in their salaries as per those of their male colleagues.

Addressing the participants, Prof Arshad Mirza demanded that amendments should be made in the Social Security Ordinance to provide that facilities to the workers in informal sector as are being given to the workers in the formal sector of economy. Special mechanism should also be developed to ensure that the home based workers also get legal minimum wage, he said.

On the occasion, Khawaja Zakauddin called upon the Civil Society Organisation working for the rights of HBWs to join hands and forge unity among them for raising collective voices to attract collective actions for empowerment of the workers.

SCCI Acting President Mian Muhammad Anwar suggested that there is an urgent need to develop a comprehensive system for registration of all the home-based workers at district, provincial and national levels bringing into existence accurate and authentic database of such workers. He added that if training on alternate income generating skills is provided, resources are provided for development of entrepreneurship and  linkages needed for access to market are provided the knowledge about all of these resources is built in home based women workers, the lot of these workers can tangibly be improved.

The meeting declared that the HBWs are the asset of the country as this is the only segment that has provided big support to the retreating economy of the country. The stake holders also urged the government to play its role in assuring the well-being of these workforce by taking up integrated and comprehensive measures.

The consultation also concluded that the home-based workers should organise themselves in groups to get the benefits of social security, saying that it was essential that somebody be responsible to pay their contribution by laws. They also stressed a need for creating awareness among such workers of their interaction with factories.