Locale: Dadu, Jamshoro, Nawabshah, Kasur and Muzaffarabad
Team Members: Shafqat Munir
SDPI has worked with World Health Organization (WHO) to conduct for them a Rapid Assessment Study for the development of Gender Responsive Campaign Strategy and IEC Manual regarding health impact of agrochemicals being used in agriculture sector of Pakistan. A full rapid assessment research report, a campaign strategy, a brochure, posters and other IEC material in English, Urdu and Sindhi languages were prepared.
According to the Rapid Assessment Study report, the use of agrochemicals in Pakistan has increased drastically during the last 50 years. Pesticides are used in high quantities during the process of growing major crops such as cotton, sugarcane, paddy and vegetables that have put the health of millions of agriculture workers at risk, especially in the cotton growing districts of rural Punjab and Sindh. Women in these districts are particularly vulnerable to pesticides as they are responsible for picking cotton, growing vegetables and helping men in the application of pesticides. The health problems faced by these women often remain unreported and untreated in the absence of proper health facilities available in rural areas, lack of data collection and lack of research facilities.
The report further says despite a number of policy reforms, the health and agriculture sectors in Pakistan remain unresponsive to the health needs of the poor farmers. Women farmers are the major victims of this policy deficit. Stereotypical social and cultural gender perceptions that deny women’s role as an active contributor to the economy of Pakistan is the main stumbling block in underreporting both of women’s contribution as well as health hazards that they get exposed to while working on farms. This phenomenon in turn excludes women farmers from yielding benefits of whatever little programs or policies available on quality pest management program, education and awareness about safe handling of pesticides and health practices, compared to their male counterparts.
Through this rapid assessment, WHO wants to develop a gender sensitive communication strategy to create awareness about the safe handling of agro-chemicals. SDPI teams carried out this assessment in 5 target districts (Muzaffarabad-AJK; Jamshoro, Dadu, Hyderabad-Sindh; and Kasur-Punjab) under the WHO Gender and Health Programme component as part of the One UN Gender Equality Interventions.
The Rapid Assessment report says the government should develop a comprehensive legal and institutional framework for formulating rules and regulations to regulate markets of agrochemicals and to prepare guidelines for safe handling of such hazardous chemicals. Such framework should be developed in consultation with important stakeholders such as relevant government ministries and line departments (especially health, education, population, labour and the food sector); representatives of famers, media, civil society, agrochemical industry etc.
The relevant policy guidelines and protocols for administering the hazardous chemicals, regulating their sale, purchase & storage should be widely disseminated in local languages by using all possible means of communication. Such guidelines should be in non-technical language that may be easy to understand for a layperson. The policies should be made to enable actors in agrochemical supply chain (manufacturers; distributors; and retail sellers) to design and launch gendered advocacy campaigns on health and safety issues around agrochemical usage.
The Rapid Assessment report provided a base for development of a campaign strategy manual and IEC Material. The campaign strategy manual has been prepared to undertake a gender responsive communications campaign and training programme to create awareness among farming communities at household level in five selected villages in Sindh, Punjab and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (Dadu, Jamshoro, Nawabshah, Kasur and Muzaffarabad). The Manual provides key technical information and strategic guidelines to undertake a successful communications and awareness campaign among farming communities at household level with proper messaging to protect people, men, women and children from toxic risks of agrochemicals. Social mobilizers, community and local religious leaders, communications teams from INGOs, NGOs, government departments (health, education and agriculture) and agrochemical producing companies may use this manual for launch of an outreach campaign through media and other local channels and to conduct training of farming communities and other stakeholders on safe use and handling of agrochemicals.
Benefitting from this comprehensive manual, the campaigners, communications practitioners from government and non government sectors and multinational companies can draw up their talks and presentations to deliver to the relevant communities and stakeholders on the subject while conducting communications and training programmes in gender perspective.