ISLAMABAD, January 29, 2021: A rigorous monitoring regime, socially-conscious brick buying, and strict enforcement of labor laws are crucial for promotion of decent work principles at the brick kilns in Pakistan. These views were expressed by speakers at the screening event of a documentary titled The Distant Dream, which focuses on the plight of brick kiln workers.
Produced by the Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability (TDEA), the documentary is an effort to increase awareness about the deplorable working conditions at brick kilns. The documentary was showcased as part of TDEA’s Promoting Decent Work at Pakistan’s Brick Kilns (PWBK) project, which advocated for the adoption of decent work principles at brick kilns, and facilitated civil society in joining hands to ensure the economic empowerment of this marginalized segment of society.
The screening was attended by representatives of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), Members of the Provincial and National Assembly, civil society organizations, donor community, and the media.
In his keynote address, Chairperson of TDEA, Mr. Muhammad Ziauddin, elaborated upon TDEA’s attempts to alleviate the hardships faced by brick kiln workers in Pakistan – including spiraling debt and bonded labour – through systematic engagement with the Labour Department, District Administration officials, brick kiln owners, and District Vigilance Committees, among others. Pakistan’s brick kiln sector is estimated to constitute 1.5 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employing approximately 200,000 workers in Punjab alone, and thus, projects such as PWBK are necessary to ensure that it functions on ethically sound guidelines.
The viewing of the documentary was followed by a panel discussion on the implementation of decent work principles at brick kilns, the corresponding challenges, and the way forward. Panelists included Mr. Lajpar Khan, brick kiln worker, Mr. Lateef Ansari, Chairperson of the Labour Qaumi Movement, Ms. Uzma Kardar, Member of the Provincial Assembly, and Mr. Zaigham Mazhar, Director Labor Department. Mr. Lajpar Khan, who was also the subject of the documentary, praised civil society interventions such as PWBK that advocated with kiln owners and the government to ensure the enforcement of minimum wages, social safety nets, and the dignity of brick kiln labourers.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Muddassir Rizvi, Director Programs of TDEA, emphasized on the importance of all stakeholders coming together and joining forces with government departments to elevate this marginalized group. He also highlighted the need to enforce existing labor laws, in order for workers to get their due rights.