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Workers Organiser Profile
- Pakistan

I am Shamshad Begum, working in a factory called East Pakistan Cromemum (pvt) Ltd located at Sheikhupura road. This factory produces leather shoes and employees approximately 800 workers of which 300 are women. A large number of the workers including myself are on contract basis. 1 started work at the factory six years ago. Although I am a permanent worker now, still it is compulsory for me to complete fixed production level everyday. If workers do not finish their quota then they must work overtime till they complete their work without any extra payment.

Around 600 temporary workers do not get any of the benefits stipulated in the labour law. However, I am covered under the social security scheme and also get medical benefits including maternity leave. The factory owner and supervisors' attitude is very bad, rough and they harass women workers. They hire only very young women. The factory management violates labour laws with the knowledge and support of the labour department and government officials.

One pocket union (pro-management) exists in the factory. Two years ago workers tried to form a genuine union, but the employer with the collaboration of government officials fired the workers including 4 women workers. Workers filed cases against their illegal termination in the labour courts, but the cases are still pending and union has been finished.

In the factory there is no safety equipment at all. I get a Salary of Rs 2000 ( US$50 ) which is very little for a decent livelihood. I have four children and my husband is a drug addict and not employed. Now I have separated from my husband, as I am unable to withstand the constant torture and violence towards me and my children. It is very difficult for a woman to live alone with small children. My contact and interaction with the Women Workers Organisation and by participating in their activities, I have gained courage and strength to talk and share my problems.

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Like me, there are many women who have a lot of social, economic and emotional problems. They have to bear the burden of triple responsibility of being a mother, a wife and a worker. Despite their hard work and devotion to their family they are not appreciated or recognised for their contribution in society.

Now I realise that women need to develop confidence, understand and support each other to solve their problems. It is possible to achieve this with the assistance and support of organisation like Women Workers Organisations. I am trying to organise women workers group in the factory for better working conditions and to get other rights as workers. I hope it will be the first step towards achieving the goal of establishing a genuine workers union in the factory.


Asian Women Workers Newsletter Vol. 17 No. 1 January 1998 19