Sharing Of Social Protection Experiences – Philippines

During the subregional workshop on social protection, the research findings in the Philippines, involving 1000 respondents from six information-rich communities with PATAMABA’s organizational presence, were presented by Dr. Rosalinda Pineda Ofreneo (National Research Coordinator for the Ford project ) and the PATAMABA homeworker community leaders themselves who had actual social protection experiences.

Insights from the following case study sites were discussed: PATAMABA Damayan (mutual aid) in San Francisco, Bulacan; community-based health- micro insurance scheme (AHMI) with a housing component, in Angono, Rizal; SSS-Automatic debit Account (ADA) scheme in Balingasa, Quezon City; the indigenous social protection scheme in Apugan; microfinance program in PATAMABA Region 6 (Iloilo and Antique provinces) and the ORT- Health Plus Scheme (OHPS), a non-profit community health insurance program in La Union. (For more information on these schemes, see Homenet Southeast Asia News Magazine, Vol 3, No1 April 2005 and the www.homenetseasia.org website).

The findings revealed that the current situations present a challenge to traditional notions of economic and social security tied to formal government run systems where women informal sector workers are barely covered; and if ever they are granted access, cannot even sustain their contributions due to income insecurity. Study findings also surfaced other forms of security that are gaining importance in homebased workers’ lives, such as food, reproductive health, etc.

The overriding concern is to enable women workers in the informal economy to have a secure income, to increase their capacity to meet basic needs and to deal with risks and vulnerabilities, which should inform the national government’s overall agenda in combating poverty.

Sharing Of Social Protection Experiences – Laos P.D.R.

Khantone Phamuang spoke on behalf of CDEA, an NGO which he represents, and which has been working with HomeNet Southeast Asia through Homenet Thailand. Social security for the informal sector is a very new idea in his country. Likewise, this is a new idea for him because he was exposed to community development; that was his organizing track back home. But he assured fellow HomeNet participants that the new knowledge gathered from this meeting will be applied when he returns to his country.

Mr. Phamuang said that social welfare is being practiced in Laos by giving out loans for education, health, maternity etc. There is also a savings group where members obtain benefits from the interest at the end of the year. The provision for social service is made possible through a savings group that gives some amount to members during times of need – death of a family member, giving birth, payment for coffin, or provide some amount of money (equivalent to USD 300) to the bereaved family. The group also provides support for income generating activities and in the marketing of homeworkers’ products.

Mr. Phamuang reiterated that he will study how social security can be extended to the workers in his country. What he has learned from this workshop, particularly social protection and security of homeworkers and those in the informal economy, will not be wasted. The concept of social security will be introduced to them. Much more, he can see that these workers need safety and health insurance because the working environment can be really bad, and there are health hazards in the workplace.

Sharing Of Social Protection Experiences – Indonesia

The study entitled “Social Protection for Homeworkers in Indonesi: Insights and Lessons” was presented by Dr. Hesti Wijaya. The standard formal social security enjoyed by formal workers in Indonesia is practically non-existent or not extended to informal homebased workers. The unsuccessful effort to push for the social security coverage of homebased workers from state-funded social security institutions gave way to the development of indigenous social protection schemes. Apparently, it was the second best alternative to not having any means of protection at all.

The research study was conducted through participatory community based action in selected areas in Jakarta, West Java, Yogyakarta and East Java. The study showed that organized homeworkers in these areas have developed various special protection schemes, which are non-conventional but are addressing their particular needs. There are five schemes which have been covered as subject of the study: Social Welfare Scheme; Health Scheme; Saving-loan Scheme; Arisan Scheme and the HWPRI Provincial Fund for Organizing.

The Social Welfare Scheme requires members to give contributions, based on an agreement among themselves on the amount deemed affordable to those involved. Various welfare benefits are covered: health injury and accident; death; birth; wedding; circumcision; engagement; amenities for group meetings; education; purchase of consumption goods such as TV sets and electronics. Since most of them are generally poor, sustainability can become a big problem and fund depletion can happen when members try to access in succession. Experiences in the field reveal that the scheme has been relatively successful and quite effective.

For the Health Scheme, known as Dana Sehat in the Indonesian language, the target coverage is directed towards preventive and curative health care. Preventive health measures entail giving education to health workers who will subsequently be the health cadres to work for homeworkers on a voluntary basis (counseling on health matters). The curative aspect is the promotion of indigenous herbal medicines and increase in healthy food intake, provision of medicine in case of emergency, and continuing lobbying for inclusion of homeworkers in the traditional, formal health insurance scheme of the government. The fund is managed by the workers themselves and sustainability becomes a problem when contributions could not catch up with the escalating prices of medicines and medical service.

The Saving-Loan Scheme has been quite popular among the informal workers because it addresses both economic and social welfare protection. It can be a cooperative or a loan saving organization.

The “Arisan” is very popular among the Indonesian women where some 10 to 50 homeworkers organize themselves into a group. Contributions in every area vary, depending on how much the group has agreed upon. The recipient is drawn, lottery style, and there can be about 1 to 4 winners per drawing session, depending on what has been mutually agreed upon at the beginning. The meeting serves as an occasion to socialize and even an opportunity to say that one is in urgent need of cash. For the latter, group members will be flexible with rules and may forego the drawing of lottery in favor of the member who is in dire need of assistance. Arisan is a flexible saving scheme meant to address the urgent needs of members. It is also an effective means to organize and develop cohesiveness among homeworkers.

The HWPRI Provincial Fund for Organizing Scheme has been conceived to address the increasing cost of transportation to attend organizational meetings conducted in the regions of East Java. Through partial transportation subsidy, transportation costs among members are reduced. Participatory action here means that each member contributes to the HWPRI fund for organizing at the provincial level, on a monthly basis. This is one way of ensuring that organizational meetings are undertaken regularly.

Indigenous social protection is an alternative solution among homebased workers. But in the midst of chronic economic crisis, sustainability remains a big question. There must be a continuing quest for indigenous social protection schemes that are responsive to the needs of women home-based workers.

Making Governance Gender-Responsive

Twenty-one participants from Thailand, Indonesia, Laos and the Philippines joined the Gender and Governance Workshop held on 24 October 2005 at the Student Christian Center in Bangkok, Thailand. Primar Jardeleza and Olive Parilla (PATAMABA-Philippines) served as resource persons.

The workshop aimed to 1) identify gender problems and issues in informal work (in their respective communities); 2) explain the elements of an effective Gender and Development (GAD) Plan and Budget for their organizations and communities; and 3) identify steps towards making their organizations more gender-sensitive and eventually, towards formulating a Gender-Responsive Plan for 2006.

The opening ceremonies got everyone involved with the “Paper Folding” exercise where each participant was asked to explain the meaning of her/his creation. From the participants’ creative minds, various persuasions and symbolic meanings surfaced.

The 15 minute showing of “The Impossible Dream” was the take off point for identifying gender problems, issues, and manifestations of gender bias in society and in informal work. Dividing participants into country groups, their presentations revealed some commonalities: within the family, women assumed their traditional reproductive roles; in the community, women surprisingly, had time for organizational activities, despite their numerous tasks within the home; but women have more problems, because of the multiple roles that they assume.

The discussion on Why Gender Matters in Governance emphasized that good governance can only be attained if gender biases are addressed and eliminated. In gender-responsive governance, there exists: equality among women and men (access to resources, participation in decision making, sharing of benefits); respect for human rights; empowerment of women; and a transformative agenda. Its attainment, through the preparation of a GAD Plan and the GAD Budget, can be a potent advocacy tool and has its implications for social equity (how the pie is sliced and shared). The GAD Plan and Budget, translate political commitments and goals into reality, and reflect the government’ s social and economic priorities at various levels.

Homenet SEA participants to the Gender and Governance Workshop  held at the Christian Student Center,  Bangkok, Thailand on 24 October 2005.

May Evaluation Meeting in Bangkok

Representatives from the various Homenets in Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand) met in Bangkok May 10-11 at the UNIFEM Regional Office in order to evaluate work in connection with the FNV-supported project “Strengthening the Network of Homeworker” which ends this year, to imagine the future in the next five years, and plot out the next steps.

Lucita S. Lazo, Regional Program Adviser for UNIFEM ESE-Asia led the evaluation meeting, assisted by UNIFEM Program Officer Amalin Sundaravej, and by Ana Lisa Magno who acted as documentor. Participants included Hesti Wijaya, Cecilia Susiloretno, and Judarman Soedarmo from Homenet Indonesia; Rosalinda Pineda Ofreneo, Primar Jardeleza and Calixtra Patacsil from Homenet Philippines; and Rakawin Lee, Phan Wanabriboon, Orapin Vimol Pusit, and Sutaree Seng-Ging from Homenet Thailand.

Part of the main agenda was the review of the outcomes at both subregional and national levels of the project’s objectives:

  1. Strengthening home-based workers, their organizations and networks in Southeast Asia;
  2. Support for the development of policy frameworks and advocacy on key issues affecting homebased workers;
  3. Support for pilot approaches for the provision of social protection for homebased workers; and
  4. Promoting fair trade practices at the national level to ensure more favorable working conditions for women homebased workers.

It was acknowledged that although there were external constraints such as the lingering effects of the Asian crisis, the frequent changes in political leadership, the outbreak of SARs etc, as well as internal constraints such as delayed and inadequate funding and reliance on a few key leaders, there have been positive achievements in the last three years.

Homenet Southeast Asia has sustained subregional, regional, and global networking despite limited funds, holding subregional workshops, launching a news-magazine as well as a website, and commencing expansion work in Laos. Membership in all the national Homenets has increased substantially, and in the Philippine case, this has expanded to other workers in the informal economy. Numerous capability building activities for homeworkers in the areas of leadership, entrepreneurship development, occupational safety and health, computer connectivity, etc. have been conducted in the three countries. There have been increasing visibility and recognition through the mapping project in Indonesia, policy and implementation advances in terms of health insurance and occupational safety and health in Thailand; and progress in terms of informal workers’ representation, access to resources, social protection coverage, and local government initiatives in the Philippine case.

Three goals for next five years

Through a series of discussions, participants agreed on three major goals for the next five years.

Under the first major goal of “Strengthening the organization and the network of women homeworkers in Southeast Asia”, the following sub-goals were identified:

  1. Homeworkers will have their own organizations using bottom-up approach and thus empowering themselves (NGOs will play advisory capacity);
  2. They will have the capacity to run their own organization (including resource mobilization); and
  3. They will be able to represent themselves both at national and the international levels

The second major goal is “Economic security and rights – Building the economic sustainability of the homeworkers and their networks” Its sub- goals are:

  1. Employment promotion;
  2. Market access and development;
  3. Promotion of decent work;
  4. Fair price;
  5. Occupational safety and health and clean technology ;
  6. Gender respon-sive mainstreaming as well as application of rights based approach; and
  7. Right to social protection

Under the third major goal of “Political Rights, Governance and Participation”, participants men-tioned the following subgoals:

  1. Visibility for home worker;
  2. Legislation;
  3. Representation; and
  4. Influence on macro economic policies (national and international)

Next Steps for 2005-2006

Within the next two years, participants agreed that subregional initiatives will include: document-ation (i.e., sharing of best practices, tools, manuals, resources); knowledge building; cross border issues; capacity building on lobbying, advocacy, and networking; website management; exchange visits, developing e-commerce; a sub regional workshop on social protection; and strategic planning for marketing and distribution of homeworkers’ products.

There were plans to set up more formal policies, procedures, mechanisms to guide the operations of the subregional network. These would include formalizing membership to the network; clarifying decision-making and representation issues; and systematizing activities with annual plan-ning/assessments and dialogues. Crucial to the process would be the holding of annual coor-dination meetings with homeworker representation, including bi/triennial assembly with ten homeworker delegates per country and some NGO represen-tatives , possibly commencing in 2006.

Another issue to be tackled is the envisioned formation of Homenet Asia, with Homenet Southeast Asia and Homenet South Asia as its major wings.

Homenet SEA Participates in the NGO Lobby Effort In Hongkong

Homenet Southeast Asia succeeded in being accredited by the WTO as an NGO focusing on trade issues. This entitled the network to a number of official representatives to the WTO Ministerial Meeting held in Hongkong on January 13 -18, 2005. Representing Homenet SEA in the NGO Lobby Effort were: :Rosalinda Pineda Ofreneo, Regional Coordinator; Olive Parilla of Homenet Philippines- PATAMABA (because if its long-term engagement in fair trade advocacy through its Oxfam Project); Hesti Wijaya, National Coordinator of Homenet Indonesia, and Orapin Wimolpusit, HomenetThailand (which has been concerned with fair trade since the beginning of the UNIFEM project in 2001).