Political parties urged to table ‘women right to land bill’

HYDERABAD: Political parties should bring a ‘Women Right to Land Bill’ at provincial level. No government has yet made any legislation for providing incentives to women farmers working in crop field in deplorable conditions.

This was the crux of media workshop on “Women Right to Land”, organized by Society for Environmental Actions, Re-Construction and Humanitarian response (SEARCH) Pakistan at a local hotel on Saturday.

SEARCH Executive Director Waheed Jamali said political parties should incorporate women land rights in their manifestoes and bring a Women Right to Land Bill at provincial level.

“It is irony that all successive governments in Pakistan have failed to provide incentives to women farmers. No government has yet made any legislation for providing incentives to women farmers working in crop field in deplorable conditions,” he said.

Jamali said that SEARCH had been working on environment and women land rights. “ActionAid has collaborated with us for raising voice for women right to land. We are mobilizing media to raise voice for provision of land right to women,” he said.

He said that it was irony that after 18th Constitutional Amendment, Sindh government had still not formulated agriculture policy. He said that the government needs to bring land and agriculture reforms with broad mind so that farming community and Sindh economy could be bolstered.

Jaffer Memon, senior journalist and civil society representative, said every man in Pakistan had right to land but women have been deprived of it. “The women are isolated after marriages by their parents and are not given land share, which is great injustice.” He said that opinions makers and journalists should hold interactive meetings to find solution to women right to land.

Sindh Hari Porhiyat Council President Punhal Sario said that journalists and politicians could help address land rights issue. He said that land rights are still being gulped up due to silence of rulers and influential people.

He said that about 55,439 acres of land had been distributed among landless farmers by PPP government, which was mostly was unfair. The government could not distribute remaining 144,000 acres of land which showed its lethargy.

He said that those women who got land were in trouble due to water scarcity and encroachments by landlords. “Former President Pervez Musharraf introduced Corporate Farming in Pakistan which has inflicted colossal loss to the local people. These lands have been given to UAE and other foreign countries for growing crops, which have ignored local farmers of their right.

Zulfiqar Halepoto, a noted scholar, said that print and electronic media could highlight land rights issue in better way. “There is no implementation on land rights. Feudal system is affecting whole Sindh.” He said that there was need to conduct monitoring of third phase of land distribution and in this regard, joint efforts by media and civil society organizations were needed.

President Bhandar Sangat Taj Marri said that food insecurity had become a tremendous issue in Pakistan. He said: “There is need to support poor famers to address this issue. Some countries under corporate farming have purchased or rented land in Sanghar district and they are shifting production to their countries, depriving local people.”

He said that farmers should be given much right to land and foreigners should be ousted. History said that it was women who started irrigating land in the world. Land was also distributed during Nawaz Sharif era but most of it was not under irrigation due to water scarcity. There is no benefit of such land distribution, Marri concluded.

He said that during Bhutto era, Tenancy Act was improved which ensured some help to farming community. Under Tenancy Act, it was said that cost on the use of machinery in crop production would be shared by landlord and farmer by 50 percent but it was also not implemented.

National Coordinator UN Women, Asim Jaleel, said that UN Women is struggling to ensure equal rights to women. He said that UN Women has been working on advocacy for women rights. “It also wants to enhance women participation in different sectors of life.

He said UN Women is encouraging home-based women workers so that they could get their rights. Asim said: “We are providing technical assistance along with government to women workers.” Women participation in workshops and other programs is the need of the hour to highlight their issues.

Fahmida Jarwar, a journalist, said: “Woman is more tolerable than man. “There are many women in our society who not only work in house but also in crop field. Despite working in crop field, women are not given crop share by their men, which is great injustice,” she said.

President SAFWCO Suleman G Abro said that land lordship in Sindh had weakened due to various factors. “Industries have been given lucrative incentives including insurance but agriculture sector has been deprived of all such facilities since inception,” he said.

He said that women were not being appointed in banks and other departments linked to agriculture sector, which showed discrimination against women.

No government has yet made legislation for providing rights and incentives to women farmers who are working in deplorable conditions,” Suleman said.

President Hyderabad Press Club Ishaq Mangrio said that most political parties had no land distribution agenda in their manifesto. The civil society will have to struggle for ensuring more land distribution through government. He said that about 55,000 acres of land out of 200,000, which was announced by Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, has been distributed and why is so that remaining land is not being distributed.

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