Recently, Inclusive Cities partner HomeNet Pakistan — following one of its core mandates of empowering home-based workers through integrated support — overcame many obstacles in advocating for home-based workers in the village of Rasool Nagar.
Through sheer determination, the HomeNet team managed to help workers register in Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority’s (NADRA) Computerized National Identity Card program (CNIC).
In addition to bringing other benefits, registration with the CNIC is an essential step for home-based workers and their families — without registration, they cannot qualify for the Benazir Income Support program, which can boost a family’s montly income by 20 per cent.
HomeNet Pakistan is the first organization within that country to work with home-based workers — who are most often women and girls who live without security, freedom of movement, education, training, resources and social services — to improve their living and working conditions. Home-based workers are among the lowest paid workers in the world.
The path to registration had many obstacles. Even after HomeNet Pakistan had arranged a meeting with NADRA to request its mobile registration van be sent to Rasool Nagar, NADRA officials told HomeNet workers they were too busy to accomodate them. Then, officials told HomeNet to write a detailed letter to NADRA’s general manager in Lahore. HomeNet wrote and sent the letter, but didn’t hear back. When it investigated, NADRA’s general manager claimed he had never received the letter and advised HomeNet to try again.
Not willing to repeat this process, HomeNet workers used their personal contacts to secure the phone number of a personal secretary to a presidential political advisor. This secretary gave an oral promise to arrange for the mobile van, but was hesitant to commit the promise to writing despite HomeNet’s attempts to formalize arrangements.
Eventually, the personal secretary gave workers the phone number of the mobile van’s supervisor, who stated, “four months ago, we visited you village for three days. No one came to register. Your efforts will be ruined.”
HomeNet worker Nabila Yaqoob replied, “we’ll see.”
On October 19th, the HomeNet Pakistan and NADRA teams reached Rasool Nagar at 9 a.m. Yaqoob had already been promoting the van’s arrival — she had twice visited the village, explaining what documents people needed to get their cards and had been using a speaker to publicize the mobile van for the ten days prior to its arrival.
As a result, 20 to 30 people were already waiting to be registered when the van arrived. When NADRA began producing the cards, people gathered in a huge gang, pushing forward for their turn.
Yaqoob asked the mobile van’s supervisor if he still thought no one would come to register. He replied, “you have really worked a lot — the last time I was here, there were not this many people.”
After producing 100 cards, the NADRA team stopped processing for the day even though people were still waiting in line. These become were angry, and the HomeNet Pakistan team promised it would arrange another visit and returned to Lahore.
As Yaqoob says, “all the people were so happy for our struggle.”
For more on HomeNet Pakistan’s work and the working and living conditions of home-based workers, please visit HNP’s website in general and read its Baseline Survey on Chiki Makers in the Kasur Region, available in the “highlights” section of the home page, in particular.