Pakistan-women run businesses facing hardships in mountain regions

Many women workers and businesses depends on tourism 

The businesses and local communities including women belonging to mountainous regions of Pakistan which are also major tourist destinations in summer  are facing hardships due to the coronavirus related lock downs and travel restrictions. Many people in Swat, Malam Jabba, Bahrain, Kalam, Shangla, Balakot, Kaghan, Naran, Ayubia, Murree, Chitral, Gilgit Baltistan, Hunza, and Neelam valleys and other mountainous regions and areas depends on tourism and related activities.
The Closure of tourism in the scenic valleys of Gilgit and Baltistan, KPK, Azad Kashmir and Punjab has severely affected the incomes and livelihood   of mountainous communities particularly women engaged in the handicraft sector. Tourism is the backbone of the local economies of these regions. The travel restrictions imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus has practically ended the tourism season in these areas before it even started.
The local businesses and craft industry mainly depends on the tourism season from May to September. No tourist means no tourism related business, income and livelihood. The government needs to take urgent steps to financially support and facilitate the women in small businesses, trades, and those who are home-based workers such as craftswomen, home-chefs, and tailors.
Before the Covid-19 crisis, they were self-supportive and financially over the poverty line. So they don’t fall in the destitute women criteria being served by the Ehsaas Programme run by federal government. Moreover, there is no adequate healthcare support from the federal government to test the natives coming back to their homes.
The local communities are under pressure as the local people working in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and other major cities are coming back to their native areas due to lockdown which has badly affected the economic activities in the commercial and industrial hubs of the country.
Majority of the people belonging to these regions were working mainly in hotels, restaurants, carpet industries and some other sectors which have been impacted by the restrictions imposed by the federal and provincial governments.
The male members of the families have to move to the urban centres of the country to find jobs. With the country wide lockdown and closure of businesses and industries many people have been made unemployed.
The local business women and women representatives have urged the government to take necessary measures to help the working women.  They have also pointed out that the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province has no data of the daily wagers and the home-based women workers. The government should take civil society organisations of repute and integrity on board with the district management to reach out to the needy women.
Samina Fazil, the Founder Islamabad Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IWCCI) said the IWCCI has reached out to Deputy Commissioner to Prime Minister to put up the case of women whose small businesses are shut down.
 Most of them are independent, single bread-earners for the families. Many are out of cash to pay the rent of their houses, shops and fees of their children. It seems both sides of the power corridors are playing politics on the crisis. Lockdown or no lockdown, women shall be the priority of the government.
The government must help the business women and working women of these regions in these hard times. Tourism needs support from the government to face the hardships of coronavirus crisis and travel restrictions.
Travel and tourism has great association with other industries in the national economy making major indirect earns and also enhances foreign investment, opportunities of trade, investments in private, local development, and public infrastructure.
                                                    Rukhsana Manzoor Deputy Editor

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