Home Based Workers Crippled During Lockdown

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By Abdul Baseer Qalandar, and Shaukat Korai

As businesses, stores, factories, and entire companies are forced to close down, while facing irrecoverable losses, home-based workers (HBWs) are drowning in a similar mire of economic depression.

Shamim Bano, a resident of Godhra in Karachi, works from home, cropping – or doing the finishing of stitched garments. It was a hectic job but at the end of the day put dinner on the table for her and her family. Yet the prevailing lockdown situation has snatched away from her only means of livelihood.

For Shamim Bano it is not just the loss of work she has had to face; the pandemic has also cost her husband and son their jobs. As for her own business, it is already facing a downfall.

Now they are unable to scrounge up enough money to pay their house rent, and cannot even afford to have two simple meals a day.

Zahida Parveen is facing similar problems. Since the lockdown began, she lost her job and is bereft of any aid whatsoever. She had applied for the Federal Government’s Ehsaas Emergency Cash program, but to this day has not received any response.

Due to the ongoing economic crisis and resulting mass layoffs and unemployment, the HBWs recently staged a protest outside the Karachi Press Club. They claimed that despite the Sindh Government’s orders of outlawing layoffs during the ongoing lockdown, laborers are still being forced out of work.

It is the same at the other end of the country. Home-based workers in Peshawar are facing the same issues. Seamstresses earning a living by selling their handiwork are worried and distressed about what they will do soon without any work to earn from. They too have been adversely affected by the pandemic.

Zaitoon Bibi, from Peshawar, relates that she was widowed around nine years ago, making her the sole bread-winner of the family. She took up tailoring to fund her only son’s education and to keep the stove in her house burning. But as COVID-19 cases have begun to spread, and the emergency lockdown began, she must bear it all with an empty stomach.

Sabilah, who is an expert seamstress, says that home-based workers – mostly women, have been economically crippled by the pandemic.

Shakirah, the coordinator for the training of small entrepreneurs in tailoring, with the textile and clothes manufacturing units no longer functioning, it has become impossible for women to continue their work at home.

Home-based industries, which were already shrinking before the lockdown, are now looking towards government intervention and aid, amidst global healthcare and economic crisis.

The industry is a means for millions of poor women to look after their homes and families. If the Government does not look into this problem and provide immediate and serious help, HBWs will suffer badly, also affecting a major chunk of the economy.