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.

Future Plans

The following directions of Homenet Southeast Asia for January 2003-2004 were agreed upon during the meeting:

Under Strengthening Networks

  1. Launch the subregional website in November 2003;
  2. Do strategic replanning for Indonesia and rebuild the national network ;
  3. Strengthen Homenet Southeast Asia coordination and planning for sustainability and succession;
  4. Explore and strengthen partnerships in Laos;
  5. Increase Homenet Southeast Asia presence and visibility through newsletters, posters, etc.

Under Policy Development and Advocacy

  1. Conduct a subregional workshop on social protection in the first half of 2004;
  2. Continue studies and set up mechanisms to monitor the impact of trade liberalization and globalization on HBWs;
  3. Create a pool of experts to assist in research and policy advocacy;
  4. Connect with ESCAP, ASEAN, and APEC;
  5. Link HBW concerns with other UNIFEM programs on VAW, HIV-AIDS, and migration.

Under Social Protection

  1. Monitor the impact of social protection schemes in Thailand and the Philippines;
  2. Review the situation on social protection in Indonesia.

Under Fair Trade

  1. Develop codes of conduct with private sector;
  2. Upgrade technical and management skills of HBWs and their organizations
  3. Create and strengthen trade groups.
  4. Establish linkages with organizations supporting fair trade practices, as well as with SEWA Trade Facilitation Center.

Towards an Asian HBW Network

The ARCC meeting also agreed to work towards the formation of Homenet Asia, with the drafting of a constitution and bylaws, and the convening of a meeting where all Homenets in Asia will be represented. This is tentatively scheduled third quarter of 2004 in India.

Sharing Mapping Results

Thirty one homebased workers (HBWs) and advocates from Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Philippines, Malaysia and India gathered in scenic Crown Peak Hotel, Subic, Zambales, Philippines to present the results of the mapping project and the analyses of the data collected; to exchange the lessons learned from the mapping exercise; and to plan for follow-up activities at the national and regional levels.

UNIFEM-ESE-ASIA, represented by Amalin Sundarajev (Program Officer), sponsored the two-day workshop convened by Homenet Southeast Asia on October 19-20 2002. Serving as keynote speakers were Carmelita Ericta, head of the Philippine National Statistical Coordination Board; and Lucy Lazo, then still Undersecretary of Labor.

In connection with the Asia-wide UNIFEM project “Strengthening the Network of Homeworkers”, Homenet Southeast Asia defined mapping “as an activity done in support of organizing homeworkers by obtaining baseline information in aid of identifying the appropriate entry points, interventions, approaches, and strategies as well as of designing action programs to promote their welfare and well being and in advocating policies for their social protection.”

While this definition gave the different networks the general framework by which the mapping activities were to be done, each had the freedom to determine the specific methodology, tools and techniques of data gathering that are appropriate to the situation and needs of the homeworkers and organizations. (Summaries of the Indonesian, Philippine and Thai presentations can be found in the succeeding pages).

Common Issues/Actions/Programs

Participants were divided into two groups and discussed their views on the common issues/ actions/ programs that they could pursue together at the sub-regional level. They also explored how Homenet SEA could help each country network and how each country could contribute to the activities (programs) and sustainability of Homenet SEA.

Among the issues they identified were invisibility, lack of access to resources (market, capital, technology, and support for organizing), and social protection.

To improve visiblity, the following were suggested: expanding and strengthening national networks; networking with other networks; coverage of more countries (e.g. Laos); representation at international level; campaign on national statistics; working more with media; publication of SEA Homenet newsletters; creation of videos and websites.

Suggested actions/programs to improve access to resources included product innovation and cataloguing, exchange of products, trade fair cum workshop on marketing, funders’ exposure to HBWs, development of website/ e-commerce, setting up of display centers, and exchange of products, skills, technologies and visits.

As regards social protection, suggestions were to hold campaigns at national and international levels (e.g., for the ratification of ILO Convention 177 on Homework), do baseline studies, convene a subregional workshop, conduct training on insurance and development of indigenous schemes, and exchange experiences on how to access social protection from government.