Response to the inquiry of the International Development Committee into UK Aid to Pakistan

Development Aid in Pakistan has mostly focused on poverty, local government and infrastructure, modern slavery, child labour, etc, but programmes specific to women home-based workers (HBWs) who are part of the invisible workforce within both domestic and global supply chains were never a priority.

Over the years HomeNet South Asia (HNSA),  Women In Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), HomeNet Pakistan (HNP) and the Home-based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) have worked towards organizing and capacity building of home-based workers in order to equip them to become leaders and assist them to create their own member-based organizations so that they can lead on advocacy of home-based workers’ rights. Leadership development is a continuous activity and an important component of building the home-based workers movement at different levels.  The impact of leadership development has been to enable many women to join federations, cooperatives, trade unions. It has also impacted them at a personal level on how they think, perceive, talk and act.  This represents a level of empowerment which would not have been possible without the interventions. Leadership development together with exposure visits to learn from each other has always been fundamental to change the mindset of women, for them to perceive the way of life and thought process of people beyond their surroundings.

The amount from the WOW programme going directly to Pakistan through WIEGO and HNSA is small (around USD 4,550). This is mostly to replicate the regional training programme based on the toolkit developed for the purpose, and for the purchase of ICT devices and data packages under the COVID-19 Device and Data fund.  However, there are indirect costs directly associated with HBWs where HomeNet South Asia and WIEGO would have been taking the lead role in implementing the activities - Leadership Advocacy training, Rights training and Exposure Visits. Had these activities been implemented as planned, we expected to reap positive results, especially in building the HBWs movement, network and synergy from the grassroots level, and in building momentum for the ratification of the ILO Convention 177 on Home Work.

HomeNet Pakistan and the Home-Based Women Worker Federation represent around 67,000 HBWs through their network of membership-based organizations. As part of their strategy, they consistently follow up with their community leaders, supervise on how trainings are replicated and how to support their members effectively. Through activities under the WOW programme, they have seen a gradual change in the perception and personality of HBWs who have been benefitted from the project.

As per Ume Laila Azhar, Executive Director of HomeNet Pakistan – “Our HBWs visited Nepal last year for the toolkit training on “Working in Garment Supply Chains: A Homeworkers Toolkit South Asia”. I have seen the changes that the visit has brought to the lives of those women in terms of perception, attitude, understanding, and how they act within their communities and how they have responded to the challenges due to COVID-19. We call that empowerment of HBWs”. 

Safeguarding HBWs has always been a priority of HNP and HBWWF as they have a direct connection with them. They have taken up the responsibility to ensure that women are safe, secure and respected. Performance has been evaluated based on HBWs capacity to voice their concerns which has been enhanced through organizing and leadership building of HBWs. The direct impact on the cancellation of the above-mentioned activities will slow down building HBWs capacity and that in turn will indirectly affect the ability of the movement to promote their visibility in domestic and international supply chains, their demand for the creation and implementation of policies that recognise the role of HBWs, their struggle towards demanding the minimum wage, ending exploitation, and securing a respectable place as a contributor to the national economy. 

This is how the WOW programme has helped support HBWs. And this is why work on building the capacity of women home-based workers should be continued.