LAHORE: Speakers at a consultative session of “framing issues of cotton pickers” have condemned the government for not paying due attention to cotton pickers, especially women, who are working under life-threatening atmosphere and the farmers associated with this business are rapidly shifting their business to sugarcane.
“Our job starts right from the dawn and ends in the evening and we, especially women, lack protective gears like goggles, dresses and shoes,” decried a woman cotton picker and progressive farmer, Kainat Malik, while speaking to the session which was organised by the Women in Struggle for Empowerment (WISE) at a local hotel here on Thursday.
Progressive women farmers from nearly 12 districts of the province participated in the consultation and shared their problems.
According to Kainat, rural women’s hands get injured during the cotton picking. “The cotton pickers don’t have protective goggles, dresses, shoes etc and most of them are suffering from eye diseases because they pick poisoned cotton without safety equipment,” she added.
She also highlighted how women are harassed in field because the society is male dominated. She said that during the picking season, girls don’t go to schools and pick cotton. “These girls buy dowry with their wages. They pick cotton to defeat poverty,” she regretted and wondered that this major cash crop is being rapidly replaced by sugarcane crop.
Another woman farmer, Humair Jalil, lamented that their wages were too meagre and most of the times it becomes impossible for them to manage their expenses. “If they (women) are suffering from any health issues, they are not allowed to take rest by their labourers. The women pick cotton in scorching heat with bare hands and feet,” she added.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MPA Kanwal Liaqat said the women cotton pickers are also denied their share in inheritance and called upon the government to safeguard their rights and provide them conducive working environment with all the necessary protective items.
“Women in today’s era are brave and well-aware of their rights, therefore I urge you all (women farmers) to take part in active politics and fight for your rights,” the MPA suggested.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MPA Ayesha Iqbal claimed that the government will resolve their inheritance issue in the next 60 days. She said the government will issue Kissan Cards to both women and male farmers in coming days under which they would be entitled to get free-of-cost medical treatment from best hospitals up to certain amount.
PTI MPA Sadia Suhail Rana said that no society could progress without the participation of women. “We should change our mindset towards women,” she said and encouraged the rural women to continue speaking for their rights.
The MPA said the PTI is empowering women which is evident from the fact that Punjab has made the process of obtaining loans easier. She said domestic workers would be considered as workers and they would have the same rights as are enjoyed by the factory workers.
WISE Executive Director Bushra Khaliq criticized the previous PML-N government for not paying heed to the issues of cotton pickers and rural women. She also regretted that women’s hard work was not acknowledged in this field. “Women grow and harvest these crops but they don’t get due shares,” she said and demanded from the PTI government to end this discrimination. “Women farmers must be provided with tractors at lowest rates and be given easy access to the markets.”
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021