SUSTAINABILITY: A Challenge for HOMENET Southeast Asia (2005-2006)

The recently concluded UNIFEM- FNV supported project entitled “Strengthening Home Based Networks in South and Southeast Asia – Phase” has successfully promoted women’s empowerment, as manifested in HBWs’ changes in attitudes, values, personal self-image, and confidence. While this has resulted in a number of notable achievements, the present challenge now is one of sustainability – at the institutional and financial levels, and in terms of a sustainable policy environment.

For Phase 2, UNIFEM will address the ‘sustainability nexus’ utilizing a multi-pronged, rights based approach for the achievement of the goal ‘Ensuring the full realization of human rights of women home-based workers (HBWs) in Asia.’ The project’s successful implementation will yield the following outcomes: existence of sustainable organizations of HBWs and their networks at national and sub-regional levels in South and Southeast Asia; existence of enabling policy environment for women HBWs / informal sector workers in South and Southeast Asia; and improved response from government and private sector on social protection measures and schemes for HBWs.

The increase in institutional and financial sustainability of HBW networks in South and Southeast Asia will be achieved through the following strategies: advocacy and policy dialogue, for stronger implementation of commitments to issues of women HBWs; building sustainable knowledge and action networks, that bring women HBWs, and other actors together to affect policies and programmes affecting HBWs; capacity-building of women HBWs, their networks and relevant key actors to influence the priorities, policies and programmes; disseminating knowledge on emerging issues and innovative solutions with regards to women HBWs, through effective use of new and traditional information and communications; and experimentation on the ‘how to’ of improving the lives and livelihoods of women HBWs, through strategic piloting.

The transition towards formalized, viable, home worker-driven networks with their own capabilities for resource generation, visible and recognized by governing institutions, and strong in their advocacy for policies will be supported by UNIFEM and FNV.

The direct beneficiaries of the project are the home worker members of the various national HomeNets. In Southeast Asia there are over 31,000 of them. Indirect beneficiaries are the families of the home worker members and the communities where HomeNet-initiated projects have had an impact.

Subregional Workshop On Social Protection

On  25 – 26 October  2005, Homenet Southeast Asia, in cooperation with Homenet Thailand, sponsored a   Subregional Workshop on Social Protection at the  Asia Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand with support from Ford Foundation and UNIFEM-ESE-Asia.  Joining the workshop were mostly homeworker-members of  Homenets in Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, and Laos. Official and representatives of international development agencies,  the Thai national government and international NGOs were invited to grace the workshop’s plenary opening, where Senator Jon Ungpakorn delivered an inspiring message on an extension of social security to informal workers.

During this workshop, the research outputs of the two-country research project 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 ” were presented.

This undertaking also served as a forum for sharing social protection experiences by representatives of  HomeNet South Asia,  Homenet Indonesia, and the CDEA in Laos, and advancing policy alternatives and plans of action among participating countries at the national and subregional levels.

Sharing Of Social Protection Experiences

Indonesia
Laos
Philippines
South Asia
Thailand

Homenets Join 10th AWID Forum

The opportunity for Homenet Southeast Asia to project itself has been realized during the AWID Forum on “How Change Happens”.  With Homenet SEA Regional Coordinator Prof. Rosalinda “Inday” Pineda-Ofreneo as the session moderator, the interactive panel presentation on “Social Protection for Homeworkers in Southeast and South Asia” took place on  27 October 2005  at the Singapore Room, Shangri-La Hotel, in Bangkok, Thailand.

The presentation drew largely from the results of a two-year participatory research project spearheaded by Homenet Southeast Asia and Homenet South Asia. The presenter was:  Dr. Donna Doane, on the comparison between South and Southeast Asian country studies and contexts; Boonsoom  Namsomboon (HomeNet Thailand), on the results of the Thai research study on Social Protection;  PATAMABA (Homenet Philippines) homeworker leaders, with insights on Philippine case studies; Dr. Hesti Wijaya (Homenet Indonesia) on the development of indigenous schemes as the best alternative to not having any means of  protection; and  Ratna  Sudarshan (Homenet South Asia), on the initial results of an on-going study on the social protection needs of home-based workers in South Asia.

There were more than thirty participants from Thailand, Philippines, Africa, Lao P.D.R., Indonesia, United Kingdom and Japan who attended the presentation.

Sharing Of Social Protection Experiences – Thailand

During the Subregional Workshop on Social Protection, Prof. Benja Jirapatpimol presented the results of the Thai research study involving 933 respondents in four regions. A survey, life stories, and key informant interviews were utilized to surface risks and vulnerabilities of women homeworkers, their conditions within the household and the family, how they are addressing such risks and their methods of accessing social protection at the village level.

Findings show that the Universal Health Coverage policy and the 30 Baht Health Care Scheme are effective and accessible especially for the poor. The Village Fund is not very beneficial because the amount of loan is rather small and not quite substantial for investment. The Funeral Fund has not been very effective either, and a majority are not officially registered except for one (Pre-Chao-ta-knew) which has systematized its collection procedure. Findings on the Credit Union Project show that the majority of villagers, except in the southern part, l do not appreciate the importance of savings. Thus, more campaigns to raise awareness about savings are needed to lessen the economic risks of homeworkers.

Surfacing from the research was the reality that homeworkers, particularly those who live in rural areas more than those in the urban, try to help one another in times of need. The relational ties or bonding among neighbors and relatives in a community is evident in the creation of two schemes that promote the common welfare – the funeral fund and the village fund.

Recommendations revolve around knowledge and skills enhancement of home-based workers and on the strengthening of their networks. Also, intensive campaigns to push for direct involvement of home-based workers in government-supported social protection schemes will be a continuing program. (For more information on the Thai research findings visit the www.homenetseasia.org website).

HomeNet SEA Subregional Assembly 2005: Towards Strengthening Homeworkers’ Networks

Homeworker-members from Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, and Lao P.D.R. renewed ties with sister HomeNets at the Southeast Asia Regional Assembly held at the Asia Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand on 22 – 23 October  2005. The approval of Homenet SEA’s Constitution and By-Laws, the election of officers and members of the subregional council, and the joint mapping of future plans and directions for the year 2006 at the subregional level were the highlights of the Assembly.

The Constitution and By-Laws of HomeNet SEA will be registered in Manila. As agreed upon during Assembly, the format and other requirements relative to its registration must conform with  Philippine law. Below is an excerpt from HomeNet SEA’s Vision – Mission statements:

Vision

The empowered homeworkers realize their economic, political, and social rights through the strengthening of their own organizations and networks, the improvement of their working and living conditions, the enjoyment of income and employment security including social protection, and participation in governance related to homeworkers’ concerns.

 Mission

To enable organized homeworkers to democratically run and manage institutionalized and self-sustaining organizations and networks at the sub-regional and national levels that will allow them to enjoy better working conditions and standards of living, attain higher income, steadier employment, and access to social protection; and to ensure that their issues and concerns are better addressed in the policies and programs of governments, international agencies, and civil society organizations, and that their representatives gain greater visibility and participation in various levels of governance, than when they were unorganized.

For year 2006, the plans and directions of HomeNet SEA were  discussed during the Subregional Assembly, summarized below as:

Towards the Legal Establishment of HomeNet SEA
HomeNet SEA will soon acquire a legal personality as its approved Constitution and By-laws will be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Manila, Philippines.

Organizing Expansion
Group formation and strengthening of mass-based groups have been the thrust of PATAMABA (Philippines), HomeNet Indonesia, and HomeNet Thailand in pursuance of expanding the organization of homeworkers’ networks. Being eyed for affiliation are groups in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, (PATAMABA had preliminary talks with some women leaders from Vietnam, and  Homenet Thailand will establish linkages with Cambodian groups, as it has done with Laotian groups).

Capability Building and Strengthening
HomeNet South Asia will conduct an institutional-building workshop at the national coordinators’ level in New Delhi in the first quarter of 2006. Homenet SEA has been invited to send one participant from each country. National Homenets will continue conducting capability building programs as part of strengthening their networks.

Resource Mobilization
With UNIFEM and Oxfam programs about to end in 2006, alternative sources of funding and possibilities of establishing linkages with NGOs sharing the same vision as HomeNet SEA’s must be explored.

Knowledge Sharing
There will be a subregional workshop on fair trade and marketing in Manila sometime October 2006 to coincide with the annual meeting of the Subregional Council. The Homenet Southeast Asia Newsmagazine will continue to come out twice a year and the website will be updated on a quarterly basis.

Policy Advocacy
National HomeNets will work jointly on the following issues: Approval of ILO Convention 177 on Homework ; Country Program and the Magna Carta for the Informal Sector (in the case of the Philippines); Labor Protection Laws (advocacy and campaigns for the coverage of informal workers and home-based workers); Ministerial Regulation to Protect Homeworkers (heighten and if possible, dramatize campaigns in order to attract the attention of lawmakers and governments); Statistical Visibility (to push for the inclusion of homeworkers in national statistics); Microfinance (continuous networking with various institutions for provision of microfinance services to homeworkers) ; Child Care (advocacy for longer time of child care so that women can perform home-based work in a safe manner without hazard to the child); Fair Trade for informal workers in the context of the WTO (to prepare a position paper for the WTO ministerial meeting, with the theme “make trade work for people, and not  against the poor”).

Elected Members of the Homenet SEA Subregional Council: (behind, left to right) Duangduan Kamchai, Kanoknart Ngamnetra, Boonsom Namsomboon, Sujin Rungsawang (proxy for Somkid Dungeon), Primar Jardeleza, Josephine “Olive” Parilla, and Lourdes “Baby” Gula; (front, left to right) Cecile Susiloretno, Sutarti, Hesti Wijaya, Rosalinda “Inday” Ofreneo.

Sharing of Social Protection Experiences – South Asia

HomeNet South Asia was invited to share insights on the social protection experiences of homeworkers’ groups in the region. Sapna Joshi and Jyotsna Sivaramayya presented a study entitled “Action- Research on Social Protection for Homebased Workers in South Asia covering Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

What surfaced from South Asia’s research was a strong gender bias that disfavor women workers in the form of irregular payments or wages lower than men’s for the same type of work, etc. Given that scenario, yet, with their earnings considered very essential to the family’s survival, women have expressed preference for homebased work, rather than working in factories because the arrangement enables them to carry out domestic duties, considering that women are also tied down by cultural norms. However, women in homebased work do not learn the latest skills and lack the resources to buy equipments. They also suffer from occupational health hazards like eye strain, back pains, abdominal pains, knee pains and foot pains. Women have also been complaining of reproductive health problems such as heavy menstruation and uterus related problems. Abdominal pain is an occupational hazard for both men and women.

In search of strategy to assist the “poorest of the poor”, the means to address their issues and problems are also being sought. Of foremost concern is the occupational health problems of homebased workers which often affect other family members too. Health and sanitation, remains a big problem, particularly in areas where potable water and toilet facilities are lacking. Insecurity in the workplace, displacement from their residences and workplace, vulnerability to disasters (natural and man-made) are equally important concerns. For credit, homeworkers depend largely on relatives and neighbors, so something must be done to address their access to funds. The challenge is how to make social protection more inclusive – to include those who are not part of any group- because the current emphasis is largely on organized groups.