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.