Event, Apr 24: Labour rights and democracy in Southasia

On the last Sunday of April, ahead of International Workers’ Day or May Day, activists and experts from across the region will discuss Labour rights and democracy in Southasia at an online event organised by the Southasia Peace Action Network, or Sapan

“Lending solidarity to struggles in each of our countries will strengthen the unity of Southasia, help restore weakened democratic institutions, and ensure dignity to the working class,” says Sapan founder member Kavita Srivastava in Jaipur.

The Sri Lanka crisis, related to unsustainable debt and balance of payments, has led to great adversity amidst the working class with food scarcity and widespread hunger. What will May Day mean to them this year? 

Sunday 24 April also marks the ninth anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza housing five garment factories in Dhaka. Over a thousand people were killed and more than 2,500 injured. Has the ensuing hue and cry led to any real changes or safety measures in the working conditions of the nation’s garment workers? 

In India, the unemployment rate has reached a 40-year high. The top 10% own over three-quarters of the country’s wealth while the bottom 60% own a mere 4%. With rising prices and declining democratic rights, how can the working class fight back? In Pakistan, how will the political and economic crises impact already disempowered workers? Will the predominantly agriculture-worker based Nepal, with a small number of industrial workers, be better off this May Day?

Discussants at Sapan’s upcoming event include eminent speakers and struggling union representatives around the region. Bengaluru-based Maitreyi, member of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) will moderate the discussion and provide a perspective on workers in the unorganised sector. 

Speakers include Karamat Ali, executive director, PILER, and a Sapan founding member in Karachi; Shirin Akhter, parliamentarian and vice chairperson Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies, Dhaka; Anton Marcus, joint secretary, Free Trade Zones and General Services Union, Colombo; Umesh Upadhyaya of the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT), Kathmandu; Apoorva Kaiwar, regional secretary South Asia, IndustriALL; Bezwada Wilson, president of the Safai Karamchari Andolan, Delhi; advocate and parliamentarian Mary James Gill in Lahore, of the Sweepers Are Superheroes initiative; Lucky Akter working with peasants rights in Bangladesh; Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmmed, activist and analyst, Dhaka. Sociologist Haris Gazdar in Karachi will present a perspective on women agricultural workers in the region. 

Acclaimed women’s rights activist Khawar Rani Mumtaz will present the Sapan Founding Charter. Prominent musician Arieb Azhar in Islamabad will sing his version of the Internationale in different languages. Eminent journalist and analyst Raza Rumi will present closing remarks at the event, hosted by youth activist Sarita Bartaula from Nepal. The winner of Sapan’s logo design contest will also be announced, out of over a dozen individuals and total of 22 designs.


Labour rights and democracy in Southasia
Date: Sunday, 24 April 2022
Time: 11:00 am ET / 8:00 pm PKT / 8:30 pm IST / 8:45 pm NPT / 8:00 pm BST

The event will be broadcast live on Facebook at this link.

This is the twelfth curated event in a monthly series themed ‘Imagine! Neighbours in Peace’ by Sapan. Earlier events have brought together individuals from across Southasia and the diaspora over shared concerns and aspirations on a range of issues. 

About Sapan

The Sapan coalition was initiated last March at an online brainstorming meeting, as a coalition of individuals and organisations taking forward the principles and ideals of peace, justice and democracy. Sapan aims to bring together people from across the region and the diaspora, to collectively work towards a visa-free Southasia. 

The Sapan Founding Charter, translated into several languages, reiterates our commitment to peace and justice in Southasia, calls for a visa-free region, and underscores the need for regionalism and cooperation. 

The Sapan monthly series ‘Imagine! Neighbours in Peace’ borrows its title from an unpublished volume by Chowk.com. Videos of previous events are available at our YouTube channel and Facebook page.

The Sapan News syndicate has since its soft launch in August, had features published in media outlets across the region, including The Wire, Mainstream, Geo TV, ThePrint, Dhaka Tribune, South Asia Monitor, The News International, Nepali Times, The Friday Times, Vibes of India, The Citizen, to name some. Some recent Sapan News features: 

For more information about the upcoming event, or to share thoughts on working collectively towards a peaceful and just Southasia, email: southasiapeaceactionnetwork@gmail.com 

Please follow Sapan on social media @SouthAsiaPeaceFacebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn.

1 Comment

  1. Credit must be given to SPAN team for organizing a program for labor rights in South Asia. Poor laborer’s are
    the backbone of economy of any country. However they are not given the necessary reward/compensation for toiling the soil and just promises to uplift their poor working conditions. Hence the organizers/speakers are requested to make a mechanism by which they can survive in this society. The recommendations may be sent to
    the concerned quarters for their implementation. If recommendations are not implemented then it will be a futile
    exercise and nothing else. I humbly request Beena Sarvar to use her power pen for exposing poor and feeble
    condition of our labor class.

    Liked by 1 person

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