Black People : Necessity Pushes Pakistani Women Into Jobs and Peril

Discussion in 'Black People Open Forum' started by Amnat77, Dec 28, 2010.

  1. Amnat77

    Amnat77 Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Dec 11, 2006
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    A supermarket provides transportation to female employees to protect them from harassment.

    Published: December 26, 2010

    KARACHI, Pakistan — Dinner at Rabia Sultana’s house is now served over a cold silence. Her family has not spoken to her since May, when Ms. Sultana, 21, swapped her home life for a cashier’s job at McDonald’s.

    Her conservative brother berated Ms. Sultana for damaging the family’s honor by taking a job in which she interacts with men — and especially one that requires her to shed her burqa in favor of a short-sleeved McDonald’s uniform.

    Then he confiscated her uniform, slapped her across the face and threatened to break her legs if he saw her outside the home.

    Her family may be outraged, but they are also in need. Ms. Sultana donates her

    $100 monthly salary to supplement the household budget for expenses that the men in her family can no longer pay for, including school fees for her younger sisters.

    Ms. Sultana is part of a small but growing generation of lower-class young women here who are entering service-sector jobs to support their families, and by extension, pitting their religious and cultural traditions against economic desperation.

    The women are pressed into the work force not by nascent feminism but by inflation, which has spiked to 12.7 percent from 1.4 percent in the past seven years. As a result, one salary — the man’s salary — can no longer feed a family.

    “It’s not just the economic need, but need of the nation,” said Rafiq Rangoonwala, the chief executive officer of KFC Pakistan, who has challenged his managers to double the number of women in his work force by next year. “Otherwise, Pakistan will never progress. We’ll always remain a third-world country because 15 percent of the people cannot feed 85 percent of the population.”

    Female employment at KFC in Pakistan has risen 125 percent in the past five years.

    Several chains like McDonald’s and the supermarket behemoth Makro, where the number of women has quadrupled since 2006, have introduced free transit services for female employees to protect them from harassment and to help persuade them take jobs where they may face hostility. “We’re a society in transition,” said Zeenat Hisam, a senior researcher at the Pakistan Institute of Labor Education and Research. “Men in Pakistan haven’t changed, and they’re not changing as fast as our women. Men want to keep their power in their hand.

    “The majority of the people here believe in the traditional interpretation of Islam, and they get very upset because religious leaders tell them it’s not proper for women to go out and to work and to serve strange men.”

    More than 100 young women who recently entered service jobs told of continual harassment.

    At work, some women spend more time deflecting abuse from customers than serving them. On the way home, they are heckled in buses and condemned by neighbors. It is so common for brothers to confiscate their uniforms that McDonald’s provides women with three sets.

    “If I leave this job, everything would be O.K. at home,” Ms. Sultana said. “But then there’d be a huge impact on our house. I want to make something of myself, and for my sisters, who are at home and don’t know anything about the outside world.”

    So far, the movement of women into the service sector has been largely limited to Karachi. Elsewhere across Pakistan, women are still mostly relegated to their homes, or they take jobs in traditional labor settings like women-only stitching factories or girls’ schools, where salaries can be half of those in the service industry. Even the most trailblazing of companies, like KFC, still employ 90 percent men.