There were some differences between CSO strategies related to the sectoral focus of programs that are important to note. Changing norms associated with cultural taboos was a long-term agenda that might be supported by Village Regulations after a significant period of trust building, women’s collective action, and service support, but would not immediately produce behavioural changes on the ground. Sequencing, as described above was important, as was providing services such as paralegal support, safehouses, counselling and so on. Many MAMPU CSO Partners helped establish such support, particularly throughout the FPL network. The research found that behavioural change tended to be slowest in sectors such as reducing violence against women, women’s reproductive health, and tackling child marriage, as we can see in Figure 42 above.
Further, in the employment and labour rights sector, many CSOs work at the district level or in urban areas and tend to have less impact directly on the implementation of the Village Law unless they directly target villages, but nonetheless, they make important inroads in bolstering the rights and protections for precarious homeworkers working in cottage industries who are often women. We can see in the case studies below (see Box 35 and Box 36) how both BITRA in Deli Serdang District in North Sumatra and Yasanti in Bantul District in Yogyakarta have, together with village women, strategically influenced change in policies, union establishment, union membership and union registration. We can also see the importance of undertaking empowerment initiatives at both district and village levels.
Yasanti provides direct support to homeworkers to both build skills, identify, and advocate for the protection of labour rights and work conditions, while also advocating for policy changes in districts and beyond. This has not only had empowerment impacts and effects on the Village Law, but grassroots pressures from women on district officials have bolstered policy change in Bantul.
Box 35: A Story of Change in Bantul—Recognising and Increasing Protections for Homeworkers
In the Bantul research village, women have limited livelihood opportunities outside of informal sectors and home industries. The most common types of home-based work include sewing crafts, bags, clothes, and bordering material to be sold to larger enterprises, at local markets and online. Women have often faced challenges due to homeworker industries not being formally recognised as employment, particularly in accessing health insurance and social security. Without formal recognition, many women reported experiencing unfair employment practices. For example, Citra describes how an employer did not provide the materials required to carry out her work.
“For example, with thread, some people give you some but others don’t. If you’re not given thread, then you buy it for yourself. How can you protest if they’re your neighbour? Especially because we really need these jobs.” Citra, Secretary of Kreatif Bunda Homeworkers Union, 23 October 2019.
Yasanti has long focused on supporting homeworkers in this region and in the Yogyakarta area since it was established in 1982. It has supported village women to establish 10 homeworkers unions, five of which are located in Bantul District, including the Kreatif Bunda (Creative Mothers) Homeworkers Union in the research village. Since 2008, Yasanti has aimed to support village women (including homeworkers) to be involved in hamlet (MusDus) and village (MusDes) consultative forums, while also enhancing women’s gender awareness, understanding of worker’s rights, and improving their practical skills. One woman described the benefit she feels from joining a union for women homeworkers:
“I learned a lot of things by joining the Union. I learned about gender, about bookkeeping, about administration in business, and how we can manage time as workers and as mothers who need to take care of our kids. Also, I learn about safety while working.” Widyati, Member of the Kreatif Bunda Homeworkers Union, 24 October 2019.
According to many members, bookkeeping is one of the most valuable skills that they have gained:
“I am so hopeless when it comes to bookkeeping. I don’t know how to do it. During the training, I learned how to do it. My bookkeeping is neat now, and ever since I am aware how much money I earn, and how much I spend. Thanks to bookkeeping, now I know all of that. I also learn how to make priorities. The training taught us how to be careful about what we spend.” Member of Kreatif Bunda Homeworkers Union, 24 October 2019.
At the village and district levels, Yasanti has succeeded in supporting village women to advocate for new regulations. At the district level, they successfully advocated for and provided technical support to the Head of the Manpower Office to design and enact Decision (No.98, 2017) on Homeworkers Unions, and to the Village Head to design and enact a Village Head’s Decision on Homeworkers Unions in 2018, which includes stipulations for a Village Fund Allocation for the Kreatif Bunda Homeworkers Union.
“YASANTI provided assistance. It helped form groups and create awareness [among women]. [Women] were invited to organise [into union groups]. What’s more, the women were dedicated to the trainings… The women were invited to participate in a dialogue with the Lurah [Head of the Urban Precinct] and Village Head. And, now there is a [new] Village Head Decision [that recognises and supports homeworkers]. Women are also now involved in policy making and both village and hamlet development planning meetings. And, women’s proposals [to support homeworkers] have been included in the RPJMD this year, and last year a program was even funded.” Ira, Yasanti Program Manager, Bantul research village, 22 October 2019.
Since the 2018 Village Head Decision on Homeworkers was issued, the Kreatif Bunda Homeworkers Union has held an equal position with other village institutions, such as the PKK and youth organisations, in village budgeting. This has enhanced their involvement in various village and hamlet meetings.
“Yes, we usually only bring issues to the Musrenbang… At least the mothers, they know about village programs. If the village holds a Musrenbang, and they know about the Musrenbang, they join in. They eventually gained understanding about manufacturing chains too.” Ratnawati, Former Village Head, Bantul research village, 24 October 2019.
By forming homeworkers unions, women in Bantul have improved their business skills, increased their knowledge of workplace health and safety, and advocated for formal recognition of their rights at the village and district levels.
In contrast, BITRA has tended to mainly work at the district level and with women’s groups spread across localities and has, to date, been less focused on Village Law implementation. BITRA also started from scratch in mid-2014, whereas Yasanti already had two decades of experience.
The sectors also operate differently in terms of the structure of the industries that the homeworkers distribute to and how distribution is managed. In Deli Serdang, middle-men called tauke distribute jobs to female homeworkers, while in Bantul the business owners live in the village, as neighbours of the homeworkers. This influences the closeness of the relationships between homeworkers and business owners and the importance of also focusing on village institution strengthening. The village environments are also different. In the Deli Serdang research village, political families are very strong and exclusionary. They have dominated village power structures and controlled village politics for more than a decade. Yet, at the district and provincial level, the situation is more favourable. North Sumatra is known for its long history of labour rights movements, which have paved the way for BITRA’s networks and the women’s collective action it facilitates. For instance, when BITRA has advocated for a new local regulation on homeworkers, other existing labour unions have assisted them in lobbying influential figures in the government.
In Bantul on the other hand, the political environment at the village level has been more welcoming to empowerment initiatives compared to Deli Serdang. The former Village Head, who was female, strongly supported Yasanti’s endeavours early on. Their advocacy and support for women’s grassroots collective action resulted in a Village Head Decision on Homeworkers Unions in 2018, the technical drafting of which was supported by Yasanti and women in the Union. At the district level, Yasanti has had a good relationship with the district government too, as demonstrated by the Decision (No 98, 2017) on Homeworkers Unions issued by the Head of the Manpower Office.
Box 36: Story of Change in Deli Serdang—Recognising Homeworkers and Increased Access to Social Protection and Insurance
In the research village in Deli Serdang District, for women, homeworker cottage industries are a popular livelihood due to limited employment opportunities and social norms about married women’s mobility.
“Generally, women cannot leave their home without their husband’s permission. So, women can’t go anywhere, especially us Muslim women. These women’s husbands don’t usually permit them to leave the house.” Reni, Head of the Straw Credit Union, Deli Serdang research village, 10 November 2019.
While homeworkers have existed in the village for many decades, they were not supported by CSOs until BITRA began initiatives in 2014 to help village homeworkers to organise, to educate homeworkers about workers’ rights and gender empowerment, and to help homeworkers improve their work conditions. To support collective action among women homeworkers, BITRA helped establish homeworker unions to provide a platform for collective action among women homeworkers. To build trust, initially, BITRA members went door-to-door to ask women to join a union and educate them about the importance of joining a union.
After three months of employing this strategy, homeworkers were finally able to hold group meetings with BITRA support. Held under the banner of SPPR (Sekolah Peningkatan Kapasitas Perempuan Pekerja Rumahan—School for Increasing Women Homeworkers’ Capacity), women learned about gender, leadership, negotiation skills, and other livelihoods skills such as sewing and acupressure, and small business enterprises.
“We participated in a lot of types of training sessions, which made us more courageous to come forward [and speak]. Before these training sessions, when we introduced ourselves by name in a group, lots of people even said their name wrong. Now it’s not like that, it feels normal looking at people’s faces.” Mila, Head of the Straw Group, Deli Serdang research village, 9 November 2019.
BITRA also facilitated the establishment of a Credit Union after social mapping revealed high dependency of women homeworkers on loan sharks.
“Many of them have experienced changes since the Credit Union started in terms of meeting their everyday needs. In the past they had to borrow from moneylenders, most of them are loan sharks here.” Diah, BITRA Field Staff, 9 November 2019.
BITRA’s unions were successfully registered with the provincial government. The Union structure extends from village level to the district and provincial levels. Since the Union was officially established, all homeworkers activities are more structured and organised.
“Yes, it’s better to be in a union than not be in a union. If the union comes together, we become one. If it is not a union, then it will break into pieces. There is no cohesiveness.” Mila, Deputy Chairperson of DPC SPR Sejahtera, 9 November 2019.
BITRA has also been a strong advocate for a District Regulation to protect homeworkers. In the absence of a regulation, BITRA has pursued other routes to improve the welfare of homeworkers by supporting the unions to advocate for health insurance through the District Office of Social Affairs. This led to the inclusion of homeworkers on the list of recipients for free healthcare through the National Health Insurance schemes (BPJS), which prior to such advocacy was not accessible as homeworker ‘work’ was not recognised.
“Yes, I got the card. I was given BPJS Employment insurance for 3 months, and after that I paid for myself, it was only IDR 16,800. The thing is that BPJS Employment system doesn’t issue fines, so if we can’t pay the policy is just stopped, and if we have money later, we can re-join without a problem. Wire weaving work is also risky, as hands get pinched and scratched. There really is a big risk.” Mia, Secretary of SPR-Sejahtera, research village in Deli Serdang, 8 November 2019.
Despite ongoing challenges to implementing policy change at the village and district levels, women, through grassroots union organising, have successfully gained access to other government assistance and social protection, through the District Head’s Integrated Referral Service System regulation (Sistem Layanan Rujukan Terpadu – SLRT), which recognises their status as workers. At the time of the research, the village had also become more open to women participating in decision-making forums and a number of women participated in the 2019 Musrenbangdes. Building on their experience in gaining access to free National Health Care, members of SPR Sejahtera have also been recommended by the village government to assist other villagers, thereby further increasing access for other villagers to social protection.
While there was variation across the sites in the strategies needed to overcome sectoral challenges and related context constraints, the strategy used in the homeworkers sector to support village women was similar to that used by MAMPU Partners in other areas and sectors. First, these MAMPU CSO Partners sought to support village women to establish a group (unions) as a platform for women to strengthen their individual and collective skills, knowledge, networks and agency and propensity for collective action. Second, they sought to facilitate village women’s increased knowledge and understanding of women’s rights, in this case in relation to wages and workers’ rights. Third, they focused on building skills in leadership and public speaking. Fourth, they focused on institutionalising changes for homeworkers through regulations at the village, district and provincial levels.