Muhammad Tajammal Aziz joined the Labour Education Foundation (LEF) in Pakistan as a project coordinator and since then has been working with the brick-kiln workers community, a vulnerable labour sector working under bonded circumstances (although the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act 1992 prohibits all forms of modern slavery). He is also engaged with textile and power-loom garment workers to record violations of labour rights in the sector and provide the victims with paralegal assistance. He joined the IFWEA study circle on Digital Skills, and is currently operating a smartphone skills course as a facilitator. He speaks about his experiences:
Please tell us a bit about yourself?
I belong to a village, Chak No 6 JB East, Faisalabad, in Pakistan. After completing 14 years of education there, I moved to Lahore for higher studies and completed my Master’s degree in Social Work from Punjab University Lahore. I began my professional career with a microfinance institution. I have working experience in development projects with various government departments, mainly Irrigation and Labour and Human Resource departments. In August 2019, I joined the Labour Education Foundation (LEF).
Why did you sign up for the Digital Skills course – what do you hope to achieve?
I joined the Digital Skills course through IFWEA’s Online Labour Academy (OLA) to advance my skills and further engage trade union leaders to strengthen labour rights movements. In Pakistan, hardly 2% of workers are organised in trade unions because of failure of the system. Article 17 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 and the Punjab Industrial Relations Act 2010 allow the forming of unions at workplaces. But the owners of the establishments, often out of fear that through the trade unions the workers will be able to claim their lawful rights, create hurdles in forming the unions by dismissing worker from their jobs or threatening to sack them if they try to form unions. Or the factory management itself forms ‘pocket’ unions to secure their interests. Through the Digital Skills course trade union leaders will be empowered and can make strong linkages with workers and other trade unions by using social media applications effectively and to highlight their issues through online campaigns. Capacity building of trade union leaders with advanced technology will definitely improve the labour rights situation in Pakistan.
Who is in your study circle with you?
I am currently operating a smartphone skills course as a facilitator. In this course, besides me, seven others are members who belong to different trades and towns. They include Mr. Ashiq Ali, Senior Vice-President from Lahore, and Mr. Muhammad Shabir, General Secretary from Toba Tek Singh. Both represent Pakistan Bhatta Mazdoor Union ® Punjab (brick kiln workers union). Mr. Aslam Miraj, President of Punjab Textile Power-loom Garment Workers Union, from Faisalabad; Ms. Tajmeena, President of Home-based Workers Union, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) from Charsada; Ms. Sidra, social mobiliser of LEF from Mardan; Ms. Shazia Tariq and Nazish Javaid, both teachers at Adult Literacy Centres and home-based worker activists from Lahore.
What will people learn on the course?
Study circle members learn the use of the keypad, the functions of numerics and symbols, how to save contacts in a smartphone, sim card and at Gmail, about calls and messages, how to create a Gmail account, andhow to download and install applications from Play Store. Also, the use of a hashtag # campaign, Wi-Fi connections, mobile data usage, and internet browsing to find relevant information available on the web.
Was this very new to you?
Although most of the members have experience of using smartphones, we don’t know about many tools and functions of the smartphones. Study circle progress is underway and will positively complete by the end of August 2023.
Will you use these skills in your organisation?
At the organisational level, brick kiln workers, textile power-loom garment workers, and home-based workers are capacitated to understand the existing situation of labour laws. Thus, the labour rights leaders and activists will be engaged to learn smartphone skills to better the labour rights movements.
How will you use these skills?
As a facilitator, learnings are shared with study circle group members, office colleagues and with trainee groups during training sessions. Also, I often find the opportunity to speak with labour rights activists during training workshops and visits to brick kiln and factory workers to improve the existing situation of labour rights through organising them in trade unions. So, it will be beneficial to share smartphones skills with them.
Has it been easy to learn the skills?
It’s easy and effective, the material is quite fine which includes videos, and documents as well. It has a flexible time schedule for on-job training and further to coordinate with study circle members according to their availability.
Have you had enough support, during the course?
It will be appropriate to mention that Ms Melanie Julie (from IFWEA) always plays a supportive role in keeping the course on track and to coordinate with course facilitators, and to hold regular progress sharing meetings through zooms calls, and reminders.
Would you like to learn more?
I will be more than pleased if I got an opportunity to be part of the next level courses, and would like to participate in other courses as well offered by IFWEA to improve and advance my skills. I would like to learn a computer skills course.
Why is it important to have these skills?
To compete with the demands of modern times, digital skills are essentially important. Smartphone and computer learning helps to handle other gadgets used almost in every field of life.
What do you like most about the course?
There are multiple functions learnt from the smartphone skills course, but the web browsing and the ability to run software applications was most interesting. Through this course study circle members and trade union leaders will be able to improve their organising strength by reaching out to maximum workers using smartphone skills.