Razia Mehsud

As the number of corona positive patients rises amidst the second wave of the pandemic, uncertainty looms over Salma as she fears what will happen if the government imposes another lockdown.

Since people from the low-income groups have been dis-proportionally affected by the coronavirus pandemic, tens of thousands of housemaids like Salma are no exceptions. A substantially large segment of these domestic workers not only lost jobs during the lockdown, but they also faced hunger, for, they didn’t have money to buy food and ration for their families.

“It always frightens me. We are in the midst of the second wave of the pandemic. When is this going to end? I don’t know exactly how it will impact us further and how things might get worse. If another lockdown is imposed, I will lose my job and my family will face hunger,” a worried Salma tells TNN.

Salma, a mother of three kids, is the sole breadwinner of her family. She has been working as a domestic maid in people’s houses for the last many years in Dera Ismail Khan City. She washes dishes and clothes, cooks, and does other works including mopping, dusting, and sweeping. Her bedridden husband is also jobless as he cannot go to work due to physical sickness.

She gets a meager salary of Rs3000 for her work. In addition to her salary, her employers use to give her food and some old clothes. She had been badly affected by the first lockdown. Her employers had asked her not to come to their homes as a result, she remained jobless for about five months.

“When I lost my job, we had nothing to buy food. Sometimes, we had to starve. I fell ill due to the anxiety and depression of losing the job. Thanks to the people living in my neighborhood, they used to send food as they knew about my position,” she recalls.

According to different economic surveys and reports, half of Pakistan’s population lives under the poverty line. Dr. Hafeez Pasha, a former federal finance minister has said that about 90 million of people are living under the poverty line.

There are tens of thousands of domestic workers like Salma whose livelihoods have been impacted by the lockdown. Apart from housemaids, there is a large number of women who have been supporting their families by doing other works such as sewing, embroidery, and packaging, etc inside their homes. Unfortunately, the government did not do any legislation to protect their rights. These women are mostly underpaid for their labor while they have also no job security in situations like the coronavirus lockdown.

There are many people in our society who have generously helped the needy and deserving families during the lockdown period. They not only paid salaries to their maids but also provided them cash assistance and food ration regularly.

Sakina Bibi, who hails from Waziristan, helped a large number of needy and deserving families. “I felt for the poor housemaids who are working in people’s houses to earn a livelihood for their families. I realized that since all the businesses are closed and well-off families are struggling, how the poor families would be managing their expenses. It prompted me to help them,” Sakina Bibi informs.

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