Pakistan: “Women agricultural workers are 69.9 percent in comparison to 38.4 percent men but less then two percent women own land”


HUNGER FREE WOMEN CAMPAIGN - The Hunger Free Women campaign focuses on demanding land rights for women terming it the only way to empower and secure women in the times of international food crisis.


hunger free

Women participating in the campaign / Photo credit: ActionAid





Pakistan - Land Rights Urged for Women

December 05, 2008
By Myra Imran


In an effort to make their voices heard by the policy-makers and the establishment, a large number of female farmers, peasants, home-based workers and fisher folk women gathered here at the ‘National Culmination of Charter Journeys on Women’s Right to Land.’

A part of the ‘Hunger Free Women’ campaign run by ActionAid, the charter journey was conducted across the country to create awareness among rural women about their rights.

The Hunger Free Women campaign focuses on demanding land rights for women terming it the only way to empower and secure women in the times of international food crisis.

In charter journey that continued for more than one month, a caravan of civil society representatives and leaders of farmer organisations travelled in the rural areas to collect first-hand information about the problems faced by the women farmers.

The caravan also aimed to share and get feedback of women farmers on the charter of demands formulated by civil society and representatives of women farmers.

The charter of demands calls for equal share in land and property for men and women and stresses for agrarian reforms and distribution of cultivable state-owned land among women. It demands that legal procedures to get right of land should be made simple and suggests computerized birth and death registrations.

The charter also calls for strict enforcement of legislation regarding women land rights and establishment of agriculture support centers for women at the union council level. The charter also demands that women farmers and peasants be recognized as workers in labour laws with right to just wages and special protection.

To encourage women farmers in their cause and ensure complete support from the government, women parliamentarians from all major political parties also attended the event.

Those who spoke on the occasion included Directress Benazir Income Support Programme Farzana Raja, MPA Sindh Assembly Humaira Alvani and MPA Punjab Assembly from PML N Shumaila Rana.

Wearing traditional colorful dresses and jewelry, the women farmers were also given time to share their experiences on the podium. Though the short speeches they delivered were mostly in their local languages, the excitement of being part of a big change was obvious on their faces that communicated their feelings well to everyone.

They said that though women farmers perform the most difficult parts of cultivation, they were never given share in income. They said that there was no source of technical training available to women farmers and they hardly get one time meal for the hard work they do on the land and in the house.

Appreciating the role of NGOs, Farzana Raja said that NGOs promote basic rights that were already been given by Islam. Giving examples of Hazrat Khadija, Hazrat Zainab and Hazrat Ayesha, she said that Islamic history was full of examples of strong women. “Those who demanded their rights instead of bearing injustices were always respected in our religion,” she said.

She said that under the income support program, Rs 1000 would be given to woman of the house only if she possessed identity card. “This condition has urged many to apply for identity cards of their women,” she said.

Humaira Alvani said that due to the prevailing financial crisis, people living in the rural areas were withdrawing their girls from schools to make both ends meet. She regretted that women farmers were not eligible to get loan from Zarai Taraqiati Bank as they did not own land. “The only way to empower rural women is to give them land rights,” she said.

Shumaila Rana promised to lobby for the charter of demands presented by women farmers. She said that women representatives in the national and provincial assemblies on reserved seats were meant to protect the rights of women.

In his opening remarks, Country Director ActionAid Fikre Zewdie said that in Pakistan 44.8 percent of the total labour force were engaged in agriculture, forestry, and fishing. “Women workers are 69.9 percent in comparison to 38.4 percent men but less then two percent women own land,” he pointed out.

In the last session, civil society representatives and lawyers presented an overview of the status of women farmers and ways needed to adopt to bring change. Programme Manager Unifem Huma Chughtai, ActionAid representative Aftab Alam, Justice Nasira Iqbal, Naeem Mirza of Aurat Foundation and farmer leader Shaheena Rizwan spoke on the occasion.

They said that 20 million acre cultivable land was lying useless in the country. They demanded that the land be given to women farmers instead of selling it. Later, the participants held a public demonstration to demand land rights.

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