HomeNet South Asia (HNSA) hosted its first-ever three-day congress with the theme, “We are a movement, we are a sisterhood, we are the future” in Kathmandu on 18 -20October 2022. It is a regional network of home-based worker organizations, representing over 12 million home-based workers.
The congress saw the presence of close to 200 women home-based workers (HBWs), worker representatives, and civil society organizations from across the globe along with dignitaries from SAARC and UN Women. The event also witnesses the presence of government representatives from across South Asia.
The historic summit is a celebration of and a showcase of solidarity of the home-based workers’ movement in South Asia, which has been building since the early 1970s. The event coincided with the 22nd anniversary of the Kathmandu Declaration that was adopted in 2000 and led to the genesis of HomeNet South Asia.
HNSA’s initiatives include building solidarity among home-based workers and their organizations while also increasing their visibility. It advocates for relevant policies and programs and aids in the creation of market linkages and decent work.
As a regional network, HNSA builds platforms for knowledge exchange and learning among its members and develops their capacities while also implementing regional campaign.
Over the course of three days of the congress, HomeNet Asia hosted a series of panels and discussions that highlighted the prevalent and emerging issues that vulnerable women home-based workers face.
The home-based worker organizations are spread across eight countries. These include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. It is estimated that there are 67 million home-based workers in just four countries of South Asia alone. These include Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Millions remain in the shadows and go accounted for in national statistics.
95 percent of home-based workers are women, and they form a vital part of the informal economy in the region. Their labour drives industry and economics while also keeping their families out of poverty. However, they have rarely been recognized as workers, and access to labour entitlements remains out of their reach.
The challenges faced by these home-based workers range from the lack of recognition as workers to exploitation in supply chains, being adversely impacted by climate change, inaccessibility to social security, and the lack of access to markets and decent work. These expert-led discussions also served to inform the network’s strategy and pave the way for the future of the movement in the region.
Ugyen Zangmo is a RENEW beneficiary, along with other 20 women is in the tailoring business and the works are done from home. She said most of the women in her group are single mothers and shared that joining RENEW has really helped them to live an independent life and make a living out of the work they do at home. She joined RENEW in 2018 where she learned tailoring, and since then she has been stitching ghos, kiras and many more.
Similarly, Kardungmo, 59, from Trashiyangtse is a member and a master weaver of SABAH Bhutan for 10 years, and stated that she is very glad to be part of congress and meeting new people (home-based workers) from seven different countries.
Both the Bhutanese home-based workers from SABAH Bhutan and RENEW who attended the congress expressed immense happiness for being part of it and supporting women for the work they do.
Currently, there are 1,686 members in SABAH Bhutan and 20 active members in RENEW with more than 300 beneficiaries.
HomeNet South Asia was founded in 2000, they are South Asia’s first and only network for home-based workers.