What have the various Homenets in Asia accomplished in the last year, and what can we do together to hasten the formation of an Asia-wide network?

Members of the Asian Regional Coordinating Committee (ARCC) created under the UNIFEM-FNV Project entitled “Strengthening the Network of Homebased Workers in Asia” met at the UNIFEM Regional Office in Bangkok, Thailand, 28-29 July to review and assess the progress made covering the period September 2002 to June 2003, as well as to identify requirements for future actions.

Present during the meeting were Rakawin Lee, Homenet Southeast Asia and Thailand coordinator; Rosalinda ‘Inday’ sPineda Ofreneo, also of Homenet Southeast Asia, representing PATAMABA (Homenet Philippines); Hesti Wijaya of MWPRI, representing Homenet Indonesia; Renana Jevhala of SEWA and Homenet India; and Sapna Joshi of Homenet South Asia. Lucy Lazo, now UNIFEM East and Southeast Asia Regional Program Adviser and formerly the ILO Chief Technical Adviser for the subregional project on rural homebased workers in Southeast Asia, was also there to facilitate the meeting.

The various HomeNets reported activities, outputs, and outcomes based on the objectives of the UNIFEM-FNV project. HomeNet South Asia, which covers, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, shared their initial mapping results, their posters, publications and other accomplishments.

Strengthening HBW networks

In Indonesia, one major Homenet accomplishment was the formation and activation of the HWPRI or Association of Indonesian Women Homeworkers as a separate entity from the MWPRI but benefiting from its guidance. Homenet Indonesia also reported the conduct of a regional peer leadership training workshop; three regional coordination meetings covering six provinces from Central, East and West Java; and last but not least,.

PATAMABA (Homenet Philippines) took the following major strides: the holding of its fifth Congress; national strategic planning; organizational diagnosis and development; training on entrepreneurship and alternative skills development, leadership, organic farming, marketing and product promotion; and computer literacy and connectivity training involving basic computer use, e-mail and internet surfing, desktop publishing, and website development.

Homenet Thailand conducted a regional leadership training in the Northeast, as well as a meeting of the National Committee of the Network and Foundation.

Policy Advocacy on HBW Issues

In line with the goal of greater HBW visibility, Homenet Indonesia reported that the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) agreed to conduct a pilot survey on HBWs in Yogyagarta and Bali as a follow-up to the mapping project recently completed under UNIFEM auspices. The Department of Labour and Transmigration also agreed to lead the National Steering Committee on Homebased Workers together with Homenet Indonesia.

In the Philippines, PATAMABA, together with other advocacy groups of informal workers, succeeded in pushing for the approval of a country program for “Institutionalizing Programs and Projects for the Informal Sector through Local Governments” which is now being implemented in Angono, Rizal with PATAMABA participation. Advocacy for greater access to productive resources resulted in the approval of training cum production grants from the Department of Labor and Employment, now being implemented in five PATAMABA areas. It has participated in meetings and campaigns of the Fair Trade Alliance, Freedom from Debt Coalition, and Stop the New Round Coalition.

Homenet Thailand has had high visibility in advocating for occupational health and safety. It has spearheaded a National Workshop on Health and Safety and Health Insurance for Workers in the Informal Economy, and has participated in another workshop to work out the strategies for attaining the same.

Promoting and Piloting Social Protection Mechanisms

Homenet Thailand and Homenet Philippines succeeded in getting approval from the Ford Foundation for a research proposal entitled “Extending Social Protection to Homeworkers in Thailand and the Philippines: Analyzing, Evaluating, and Sustaining the Work in Progress and Drawing Lessons from the Experience.” This is a two-year project which involves surveys, focus group discussions, case studies and life stories, as well as national and subregional validation workshops. .

At the national level, PATAMABA has been actively campaigning since 2002 for HBW membership in the Social Security System (SSS) now 734; Philhealth, now 617; Red Cross now 491; and damayan (indigenous scheme), now 2,647. It is documenting and implementing innovative pilot social protection schemes, including registering and federating damayans in Bulacan province, as well as launching a land, housing, and community-based health micro-insurance scheme in Angono, Rizal with the support of the local government, ILO, and other stakeholders.

On the part of Homenet Thailand, it is following up its pilot health scheme in the North, and is collaborating with the Mahidol University as well as ILO for training informal workers on occupational safety and health. It is also working for legislation for the legal protection of informal workers.

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