Khadija Bano, a worker living in Musharraf Colony in Karachi, plans to set up her own towel processing system on the first floor of her newly constructed house. Married to a worker with three children, Bano has been working for the last 11 years. She processes towels, including bleaching, dying and packing.
She started learning towel processing in a nearby factory and after mastering the skill in eight months, she started doing the same work at her home, she recalls.
A vendor who has installed the required machines at her home, also provides her with other materials, such as chemicals, powders, etc, for dying towels at piece-rate basis. He also charges rent for the machines.
Bano says that after deducting all expenses, including utility charges, she can earn Rs15,000 to 16,000 every month.
Sometimes, there is more work which increases her income, but there are times when there is less work. When she has bigger orders, she engages other working ladies in the neighbourhood and shares the compensation with them.
But she complains that the work she does has no job security. Labour laws are not applicable to such work and the employers are just interested in completion of their work.
“We have made our own association, which is affiliated with HomeNet Pakistan, a network of homebased workers’ associations,” informs Bano, adding that she and other home-based workers have got a health insurance card which covers hospital expenses worth Rs200,000 annually for the entire family. This health insurance facility is provided by a private insurance company with financial support from UN Women.
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Proud to be a self-employed and empowered woman in a poor locality, Bano says her family went through difficult times as her husband became seriously ill a few years ago. “I managed all the expenses of the hospital,” she says. Now her husband has recovered and is doing job in a factory. Belonging to a Katchi Memon family of Karachi, Bano has a daughter and two school-going sons.
“Currently, I am in the process of completing the construction of my home and when the first floor is ready, I will purchase my own material and start working,” she says.