Non-Muslim women face hardship to enter job market
By Amar Guriro
KARACHI: Due to rising religious extremism in Pakistani society, generally, the religious minority and particularly the Hindu women are facing difficulties to enter the job market, even when looking for an odd job, revealed a detailed study conducted by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)-Sindh chapter’s intern and young researcher Seema Rana.
“Non- Muslim women of Pakistan often face more disadvantages compared to men of the same class. Social and religious factors have further restricted them from entering the job market, even though with increased economic pressures we see more women from all classes entering the workforce,” said Rana.
In her report, she conducted a detailed survey and composed a list of the problems that non-Muslim women from Lyari town are facing to get jobs in the market.
When asked about their occupations, there were quite a diverse range of replies. 32 percent of women were working as maids at houses and were responsible for cleaning and sweeping houses. 53 percent of the respondents were employees in factories and carried out the tasks of packing and cleaning. Nine percent of them were employed as teachers while only three percent worked in beauty parlours as beauticians.
The study found that those working in the factory received Rs250 per day while the earnings of those in other occupations ranged anywhere between Rs6,000 and Rs10,000. At least 41 percent of these women work 8 to 10 hours a day, 19 percent work 10 to 12 hours while the rest work less than 8 hours in a day.
However, despite the time and effort that these women put in, 79 percent of them said their earnings contribute only 10 to 25 percent of the total household expenses.
The study further assessed that the employer or supervisor behave in a strange way and often they face discriminatory behaviour due to their ‘Non-Muslim’ status.
During the study, when asked about employer and supervisor attitude, 54 percent of them said it was moderate and 37 percent said it was good whereas eight percent complained of bad attitude. They were also asked whether it is difficult for them to get leave from work during their religious festivals, to which 59 percent of the women said yes.
When asked about their working conditions, and whether their physical occupation caused them any illness or damage, 85 percent of these women replied with an affirmative. Of these 85 percent, 50 percent of the women suffered from back aches and complained that their hands and feet hurt after work, while 20 percent also complained of breathing issues due to unfriendly factory environments.
The next aspect of the questionnaire focused on the general behaviour of the employees working with these women and their attitude towards their religious differences. Hence, they were asked regarding the attitude of their fellow workers.
They were asked if people working with them preferred eating with them, and 51 percent replied in affirmative, while the rest said that they always ate separately. They were also asked whether their staff mates or co-workers degraded their religion, to which 64 percent of the respondents agreed, stating that their religion is always looked down upon, whereas 36 percent did not feel that way.
When inquired about whether they were ever told or persuaded by their workmates or owners to convert, 67 percent of the women agreed that they had experienced this.
The other half of the questionnaire focused on any discrimination or hostilities or problems they encountered being non-Muslim workers.
They were therefore asked, if they had ever been victims of any kind of violence, to which 42 percent responded in an affirmative. Those who were victimised were further asked to share any special incident where they encountered particular problems. However, 61 percent of those who stated they were victimised refused to disclose any information, while others shared their views and related that they often have to bear with offensive comments and misbehaviour. Muslims often joke about their religious practices and it really hurt them, but they bear with it.
In this regard, Bima, a 35-year-old factory worker shared that her co-workers make fun of the fact that they burn their dead. Furthermore, several of the women narrated that they are often threatened with dismissal from work, since Muslim women are given preference, therefore speaking up and sharing views was impossible.
Shanti Bai, a 40-year-old woman working in a factory shared that once she called her co-worker ‘brother’, “He was really offended and insulted me for associating him as my brother.”
The women-workers were also asked whether they ever received any special treatment because of their minority status, to which 69 percent of them responded in a negative. Whereas some of the women acknowledged that they met some co-workers who appreciated their good manners and overlooked their differences and respected them. They also said that if their supervisor or employer treated them unfairly, their co-workers often sympathised with them and even defended them.
The last part of the questionnaire highlighted the difficulties they faced in their work experience as a woman.
Thus they were asked whether they were ever bullied in their work place for being women. Out of all the women who filled the questionnaires, 59 percent replied in an affirmative, out of which 91 percent said they were abused verbally and only eight percent admitted to physical abuse.
The above data suggests that the attitudes of people towards non-Muslim female employees are improving and they are being accepted more in the society, however their status as firstly belonging to a minority group and secondly as women is still a struggle.
Source: Daily Times