June 21, 2024
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Recognising the spines of sanitary workers

Recognising the spines of Sanitary Workers

By Fatima Qaiyum

The silent efforts, dedication, and hard work of the sanitary workers of Pakistan are often dismissed and ignored. Behind their strong exterior is a story of compromise, constant struggle, bravery, resilience, courage and sacrifice that deserves full recognition, utmost appreciation and respect.

We praise all services but that of the sanitary workers.

We praise doctors, we praise nurses, we praise army, we praise teachers. Sanitary workers offer us clean surroundings, maintain safe sanitation services in homes, schools, and other settings, and protect public health by exposing themselves to dangerous chemical and biological agents, putting themselves at risk of contracting diseases like hepatitis, skin problems, respiratory problems and so on.

Why do they still remain invisible? Why do their efforts remain neglected? Why are they treated cruelly and often exploited? Sanitary workers are not only overlooked upon, but are emotionally disregarded, ostracized and socially set apart, and greatly discriminated against. Their tasks are often deemed thankless, met with neglect and indifference by people. They are given humiliation, delayed and illegal wages, left destitute of EOBI and made to work in dangerous conditions. Shamefully, every one of us as a citizen of Pakistan plays a role in creating and allowing such degrading conditions for our fellow citizens.

The social stigma that has been attached to the sanitation labor force threatens their dignity and standing in the society. This stigma is often used as a justification for systemic discrimination and injustices.

Name calling is one of the many brutal and harsh acts of society that has greatly marginalized sanitary workers. People prefer calling them with nasty names such as “Changar”, “Musalli”, “Choora” etc, setting the foundation for hatred and discrimination. This casts a long, dark shadow over their lives, taking away the respect, recognition and dignity they rightfully deserve. In a society that is significantly divided by status and power, these individuals are often thrown down the social ladder, their contributions undervalued and unacknowledged. Despite being targets of such harsh and unacceptable behaviors and circumstances, sanitary workers keep their guard on and focus on serving their communities.

Sanitation workers need to be free from the harsh social, financial and occupational injustices they are made to put through. As suggested by SGD 8, they must be recognized, supported and provided with safe and decent working conditions. Their unparalleled dedication in serving their communities must be acknowledged and valued. It is our duty to work towards bringing equality, respect, prosperity, growth and ease in their lives.

An insight into the lives of sanitary workers serves as a reminder of the cruelty, injustices, inequalities and ignorance that persists in the society. It is time for us to actively play a part in bringing about a positive change in the society, a change that adds to the wellbeing of the public. Their sacrifices are to be honored. It is time to #Recognise and Respect.

About Author

The author is a student of Journalism at Beaconhouse National University, Lahore.