In South East Asia, there are national homebased workers’ networks – HomeNets – in Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines. They emerged as part of a major subregional project undertaken from 1988 to 1996 by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and funded by DANIDA. The project’s Chief Technical Adviser then was Lucita S. Lazo, who continues to be a moving spirit behind homeworkers’ movements not only in the region but across the globe.
HomeNet Thailand is composed of 6000 members served by NGOs active in three regional networks-the Central (Bangkok) Network , the Northern Network and the North East Network . In the Philippines, the National Network of Informal Workers (PATAMABA), has a membership 14,138 as of end of 2003 in its formal registry. In addition, the PATAMABA youth sector has been actively recruiting from among their ranks, and has reported a membership of at least 2,000. In Indonesia, MWPRI (or the National Network of Friends of Women Homeworkers) now has 19 collaborating NGOs. They are serving 11,000 homeworkers in six provinces. The MWPRI has been instrumental in the formation of HWPRI as an independent association of Indonesian women homeworkers.
A regional network of the South East Asian groups grew out of the ILO-DANIDA initiative and was formalised in June 1997. HomeNet Southeast Asia, based in Bangkok, enables the three countries to co-ordinate their activities particularly in the area of advocacy work at regional level. It is also exploring expansion to Indochina.
HomeNet SEA is one of the original components of HomeNet International, a global network which was set up in 1994 and which also has member groups in South Asia, East Asia and Australia, Latin America and Canada, as well as Europe. The primary objective then was to launch a co-ordinated campaign for the 1995 ILO conference where the agenda included discussion on the development of the Convention for home-based workers.
In principle, HomeNet supports home-based workers in democratic, membership-based organisations both as trade unions or other forms such as associations, co-operatives or people’s organisations. The strength of the network lies in its grassroots membership and the technical support it extends to its members. At the same time it carries the voice of the homebased workers at the national, regional and international levels, to influence legislation, policies and programmes.
The general aims of Homenet SEA are:
• To build an international network for homebased workers and their organisations as well as NGOs, cooperatives, trade unions, researchers, women’s groups, etc. including all those directly or indirectly undertaking work in this field;
• To coordinate a campaign for the improvement of homebased workers’ conditions of work at national, regional and international levels;
• To collect and disseminate information on homebased work to members of the network and other interested organizations; and
• To assist in obtaining technical assistance for, and act as a channel of the same to homebased workers.
HomeNet SEA holds subregional meetings and workshops and does advocacy work on the ILO Convention on Homework.
Currently, it aims to increase homeworker visibility and empowerment in the region through mapping and other forms of research, consolidation and expansion of networks at country and regional levels. The emphasis is on building the sustainability of the regional and national HomeNets in the aftermath of the Asian crisis which has affected their ability to be self-financing. The activities will focus on co-ordination, exchange of information, advocacy on common issues and building alliances with multi-sector stakeholders
Hesti Wijaya (left), HomeNet Indonesia coordinator, and homebased workers in Jakarta