Author: Anila Yousuf
All around the world, different governmental and non-governmental institutions work hard to formulate laws that set minimum monthly wages and benefit packages for laborers. The working hours are fixed, and there is additional compensation for working overtime. However, in addition to these formal laborers , there is another kind of worker around us – those who live in our own homes and work tirelessly all day without appreciation for their services, adequate wages, or holidays. As they are not recognized as laborers,but rather as family members, there exist no laws or regulations to protect the interests of and ensure fair working conditions for women in informal employment in the home.
Not long ago, Baluch women began advocating for their rights. On International Women’s Day this year, these gender equality activists emphasized a key component of their agenda – a movement against the gender roles in Baluch society. Women are expected to complete unpaid domestic labor in accordance with traditional gender expectations of them as mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters. In Baluch society, domestic work is considered a woman’s responsibility, and they subsequently bear a disproportionate burden for this labor. This is even the case when women are also engaged in formal labor outside of the home. This presents a challenge for women, even in urban areas and cities where hiring domestic help is inexpensive. Still, for the majority of families, economic conditions do not allow them to employ domestic help.
In conservative and rural Baluchistan, where women do not have access to modern facilities, the workload of these women is even more demanding and challenging. They have to fetch water from ponds and water pools kilometers away, carry water pitchers on their heads while walking back on foot, cook food over fires, take care of cattle, wash clothes by hand, etc.
I teach at a girls school in a village called Pishukan in Baluchistan. One day, I asked my students to write an essay about their daily activities after school. All of them wrote only about housework and about how they are responsible for most of the housework after school and during holidays. The main reason of school drop-outs for girls in Baluchistan is the burden of housework on them. Unfortunately, all state institutions are silent on the violation of educational rights of these girls. Furthermore, all anti-child-labor and child protection laws only exist in paper. One of the biggest reasons for this is the extreme poverty of the families and the lack of a system to promote the education of girls in Baluchistan.
This attitude has taken deep root in our society in such a way that educated and seemingly enlightened men, who raise their voice against different forms of oppression on social media, also perpetrate the same oppression when it comes to women in their homes. The woman is supposed to be a slave of man of the house – she must follow his orders if she wants to live in peace. If by chance, a man helps women of his family, shares the domestic workload, or takes care of the children then he is also made a target of ridicule and mockery by the society.
The gender roles are not limited to stay-at-home women – working women are no exception either. They have to work outside the home and upon coming home then have to bear the burden of housework alone without any help.
It is not enough to call a woman Sinf e Nazuk (a delicate gender). It is also important to understand the delicate structure of her body. Her body composition is very fragile and reducing her to labor-intensive work at home is not only dangerous to her health but it is a cruel practice too. This brings negative effects on a woman’s health as she reaches her forties in the form of various diseases.
We as a society must not only understand, but also recognize that the responsibility for household work lies not only with girls or women, but with everyone in the home. Put equal responsibility on the son and daughter in the house, and the man should also be responsible to help the woman with the household chores. This way it can lay the foundation for a healthy and balanced society.
Disclaimer: This is an opinionated piece. Any opinion and views represented in the piece are personal and belong solely to the author.