Pakistan, Women constitute only 2% membership of the trade unions


Only 2% trade union members in the formal and invisible in the Informal economy


ISLAMABAD (ILO News) – Women constitute only 2% membership of the trade unions in Pakistan, this figure does not even include informal economy of which more than 70% are women.

This alarming figure was shared in a training workshop, “Training of trainers in developing women leadership in trade unions” held at Naran from July 28 to August 8, 2012.

The training was jointly organized by Pakistan Workers Federation and International Labour Organization (ILO) as part of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) funded project ‘Promoting Gender Equality for Decent Employment (GE4DE)’.

The training focused on increasing women’s membership, participation and leadership in trade unions through capacity building, increasing their understanding of workers’ rights and the significance of ILO conventions specially those concerning right to freedom of organization and collective bargaining.

A total of 24 women workers belonging to 18 trade unions from both public and private sector participated from different parts of Punjab and KP provinces.

The workshop also aimed to create a cadre of women master trainers who on return would train trade union members in their respective organizations and act as change makers.

While a large number of women have been joining economic fields their representation in trade unions remains considerably low. Irregular employment, vulnerable working conditions, no formal rights or government protection, low wages, long working hours and high rates of violence at the workplace all constitute aspects of the very difficult situation in which many women labourers find themselves today. One basic reason for this is that these women remain unorganized and largely unaware of their rights, rendering them unable to demand even elemental protection from the Government and their employers.

“There are certain issues which only affect women workers and without their representation in trade unions they are not even discussed”, said Ms Zahida Perveen, master trainer of the workshop and chairperson of women committee of Pakistan Workers’ Federation.

Giving a personal example she said, “I joined IESCO in 1990 and at that time there was no separate washroom for women. I was the first to raise a voice for a separate washroom; my female colleagues discouraged me as they thought it would bring a bad name to women workers. After one year of struggle in 1992, I succeeded in getting a separate washroom for women workers in IESCO”.

Mr Zahoor Awan, General Secretary Pakistan Workers Federation at the closing ceremony said, “Pakistan has ratified 34 ILO conventions on labour rights, including conventions related to freedom of association and collective bargaining and right to organise. The best way for women workers to get their rights is to take part in trade unions and eventually assume leadership roles so that their voices are heard and considered when policies are made and action plans are approved”.

While addressing the participants at the closing certificate distribution ceremony, Mr Francesco d’Ovidio, Country Director, ILO Pakistan said the developing women leadership in trade unions is basically about three things — unionism, gender equality and leadership. “We feel that women participation in trade unions and leadership is extremely weak in Pakistan. This is the first initiative of hopefully a long series of trainings and other initiatives in different areas. It is true that Pakistan’s performance of gender inequality index is not so good but there are some good signs like 22 percent of total parliamentarians are women”, he added.

The participants developed action plans outlining measures they would take to implement Gender Equality by improving women representation and voice in their respective organizations.

For further information please contact:

Mr M.Saifullah Chaudhry,
Senior Programme Officer and Media Focal Person
ILO Country Office for Pakistan
Tel.: +92 51 2276456-8


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