Tuesday, 31 December 2019

2019 in Review: Our Top 5 Blogs

Word cloud for all our blogs from 2019

In this year-end review, we look back at our top five blog posts which highlight the research Collective has recently been engaged in as well as the evidence-based views of our researchers on important policy issues.

1.      Climate Action in Pakistan: Policies at the Top versus Voices at the Bottom

Perhaps the defining problem of our times, the conversation around climate change and its consequences really came to the fore globally, with teenager Greta Thunberg leading the charge for urgent action. Even though Pakistan is the fifth most vulnerable country to climate change, this conversation has not really caught on in the public sphere.

As one important contribution to this policy issue, Ayesha Mysorewala examines how climate action is understood in Pakistan. Policies tend to be top-down with a weak state-citizen relationship. She argues that for serious climate action this relationship needs to be strengthened.

2.      The Plight of Domestic Workers in Pakistan

The Aurat March in 2019, a protest organized on 8th March 2019 to mark International Women’s Day, was an extremely successful event that was held across multiple cities in Pakistan. Women from across class and ethnic divides came together to demand their rights. While the post-march discussion on social and electronic media highlighted many of the demands made, one issue and segment of women that received scant attention was the right to fair compensation for domestic workers.

Kabeer Dawani looked at legislative gaps for domestic labour and current wage practices to illustrate how there is a long way to go for domestic work, which is one of the most exploitative forms of labour, to be recognized as dignified work.

3.      Women Activists and their Turn to the Courts

In an important milestone for women’s rights, the year 2019 was the first time someone was convicted under the Sindh Domestic Violence Act of 2013 – a full six years after the law was passed! However, this is not the first time the courts have been used to advance women’s rights. In fact, as Ayesha Khan writes, there is a long history in Pakistan of the judiciary being used to make incremental gains for women.

Ayesha powerfully illustrates through multiple cases that women activists, from Asma Jehangir and Hina Jillani to Shahla Zia and Sara Malkani, have used courts strategically to advance human and women’s rights.

4.      BISP, Citizenship and Rights Claims in Pakistan

The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) has recently been mired in controversy, after the Government of Pakistan recently removed more than 800,000 beneficiaries from their database. Despite this, BISP remains the the country’s flagship social safety net programme, and has been widely recognized as a successful cash transfer programme.

Rehan Jamil, who is currently doing a doctoral dissertation focused on BISP, provides insights from his field work on how citizens view BISP and the possible impact on the claims they make on the state. His piece highlights how BISP has led to changes in women’s mobility and how they access public spaces. Moreover, Rehan’s work finds no evidence of BISP being used for clientelistic purposes.

5.      Women Leaders in Action: Lady Health Workers’ Protests

The Lady Health Workers (LHW) programme, initiated in 1994, is “one of the largest community health worker programmes in the world.” The aim of the programme was to provide essential primary health services in previously underserved areas, and past evaluations have found the programme successful in improving health indicators.

However, as Komal Qidwai points out, the LHWs have been protesting since 2002 against low and often delayed payments. Within the broader sphere of women’s involvement in contentious politics, Komal’s piece examines the range of tactics used by LHWs to fight for their rights, including sit-ins, hunger strikes, and the use of courts. The essay also shows how engaging in protest action has led to empowerment for many LHWs within their communities.

You can read the full essay here: