Success stories for empowering women
Empowering women is an essential aspect of any attempt to transform the lives of the urban poor — not only because gender equality is a human right, but also because it is fundamental to bringing an entire community out of poverty. For one thing, it magnifies the impact of such efforts, as women are very likely to invest their income back into their families, focusing on health and education. The following success stories — initiatives from Lagos, Bangalore, Jakarta, and Rio de Janeiro — demonstrate that with legal recognition, skills training, a social support group, or a garden, women can break the cycle of poverty.
Women empowering women through vocational skills
Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi, Lagos Community Manager
The importance of empowering women goes beyond giving them a means to sustenance and income. It is fundamental to building the fabric of society. A successful woman who is a productive member of society is more likely to create a strong community both in her home and her society. According to CARE, women and girls suffer disproportionately from the burden of extreme poverty, and make up 70 percent of the 1 billion people living on less than a dollar a day.
In Lagos state, women's empowerment is the focus of two organizations that were created and are managed by women: the Real Women Foundation and the International Women's Society (IWS). Both of these organizations provide vocational training to economically and socially disadvantaged women in order to equip them with skills that serve as a source of income to alleviate poverty in their lives. Some of the vocational training courses offered include fashion design, pastry making, event decoration, and jewelry. While these two organizations have vocational skills training in common, they also provide other programs that work towards women's empowerment.
The Real Woman Foundation created the "peace villa" in 2002 as a shelter for commercial sex workers and sexually abused women. Not only does the villa provides shelter for these women, it also includes a rehabilitation program, counseling sessions, and vocational skills training. After a 6-month course, each woman is expected to develop a plan. Since the villa's inception, 88 women have been rehabilitated; some have started businesses and some have gone back to university to further their education. At the foundation's life skills training center, 275 women have completed various skills courses and have started their own businesses. The program has numerous success stories, including P., a 26-year-old woman who received shelter and rehabilitation, and is now a college graduate.
In addition to the vocational skills training, IWS runs another program worth noting: the widow's trust fund program. This program is designed to support and finance disadvantaged young widows to start an enterprise. Since its inception 10 years ago, many women have been assisted with business plans and funds to create or expand their businesses; over the past three years, 150 women have benefited from the fund. Most women hear about the program through word of mouth and announcements.
These organizations' programs support marginalized women in Lagos by creating opportunities through business support, skills acquisition, and shelter from abuse. While these organizations have been remarkably effective, they need more support in order to be able to offer these services completely free instead of at minimal prices (equivalent to 12.00-30.00 USD). Even at these low prices, some marginalized women may not be able to afford the sessions; cost-free skills training would make the program more inclusive. Furthermore, more women would hear about these programs if the organizations ran better publicity and outreach events in Lagos' high-risk areas.
Photo credit: Africa Renewal
Street courts help women in Bangalore slums
Carlin Carr, Bangalore Community Manager
Concerns for women's safety in India have dominated headlines this year. Since the horrific gang rape in Delhi last year, stories about mothers, teenagers, and even young girls being subjected to violent attacks, rapes, and other physically and sexually gruesome incidents have been reported on nearly every week, if not every day. While the Delhi rape case was committed by men who were strangers to the victim, all too often women know the perpetrators of such crimes. A 2012 Indian Journal of Public Health article paints a grim picture of domestic violence statistics. The violence, in its many forms, cuts across social and economic strata; however, poor women face violence at significantly higher rates, and their position in society leaves them with few avenues for redress.
Community and family support were commonly missing among victims in the study. One of the recommendations was that women in slums need "more social support, awareness and income generation." In Bangalore, an organization called Global Concerns India has been targeting its efforts in the slums to increasing social support to women, particularly those affected by domestic violence. "The many women's 'self-help' groups in the slums are primarily economic, premised on capitalistic microcredit loans, rather than social empowerment," says an article on GCI's site.
One area of focus is a street court that, until GCI moved into the Bangalore slum of Lakshman Rau Nagar in 2009, literally took place outside in the narrow bylanes on straw mats. GCI says that a woman named Anu, 23, was the first person to bring her grievances to the Naari Adalit, or "Women's Court." Anu, who was more educated than her husband and had a good job, used to be beaten by her jealous husband. With the help of GCI Director Brinda Adige, a social activist, the community of Lakshman Rau Nagar gathered to discuss the issue and take collective responsibility.
In an interview on Radio Open Source, Adige chronicles her experience developing a system to help women in Lakshman Rau Nagar and her tough approach that grew the street court into a local institution: "They call the Office the place where, if you have a problem, it will get sorted out. There will be a solution that we can find for it... but you have to be responsible for it... It's only when the women come here that they realize that the question, the answer, the problem, the solution lies within them... If you put up with nonsense, you get nonsense all the time."
In addition to the Naari Adalit, CGI has worked with local self-help groups to expand their efforts to empower women. Most important, however, has been the role of the community in seeing that these programs, as well as the court, continue to make a positive impact. "Young men in the slum have also been keen to get involved," says CGI, "and the Women's Court is transforming into a 'People's Court.'"
The Women's Court is a promising model that shows the power of community-led solutions to inspire change. That's not to say that the state doesn't play a key role. More stringent laws need to be enacted to protect women and more institutionalized education programs for men need to be integrated into schools. No matter the mechanism, one thing is clear: progress can only be made in a cooperative environment, and Naari Adalit shows that communities will take responsibility if clear avenues are created for bringing justice to the situation.
Photo credit: Meena Kadri
Pemberdayaan perempuan melalui Rumah Pangan Lestari
Yuyun Harmono, Jakarta Community Manager
Many women in Kramat Jati, East Jakarta work as onion peelers, as peeled onions fetch higher prices at the market. Thanks to Rumah Pangan Lestari (KRPL), a government program that supports the diversification of food at the household level, these women have learned how to use onion peel waste to make compost, which they use to develop food gardens. The KRPL program has improved family nutrition and has reduced household expenditure on food. Women have also gained increased control over household income, leading to more balanced relationships between men and women. In addition, these gardens have increased women's self-esteem and confidence by increasing their involvement in decision-making, both at home and in the community.
Kawasan Rumah Pangan Lestari (KRPL) Kelurahan Tengah berlokasi tak jauh dari Pasar Induk Kramat Jati. Tepatnya di pemukiman padat penduduk, RT 06/RW 10 Kelurahan Tengah, Kecamatan Kramat Jati, Jakarta Timur. Di lahan yang tidak terlalu luas, tumbuh berbagai macam tanaman pangan maupun tanaman obat. Sebagian besar perempuan di wilayah itu bekerja sebagai pengupas bawang merah. Bawang merah yang sudah dikupas harganya lebih mahal, mereka kemudian menjualnya di Pasar Induk Kramat Jati.
Hanya saja, sampah sisa kupasan daun bawang merah tersebut biasanya dibuang ke Kali Induk dekat pemukiman mereka. Melihat kondisi lingkungan seperti itu Haji Ramin Sa’aman mempunyai inisiatif untuk menjadikan sampah sisa kupasan daun bawang merah tersebut sebagai bahan untuk membuat kompos. Ia menemukan cara mempercepat proses pembuatan kompos dari yang biasanya dua sampai enam minggu menjadi hanya enam hari “selain mempercepat proses, juga tidak menimbulkan bau, cocok untuk dilakukan di kawasan padat penduduk” ujarnya.
Inisiatif ini dimulai sejak tahun 2001, saat ini inisiatif tersebut sudah dikembangkan di empat RT lain. Kini, warga tidak lagi membuang sampah sisa kupasan bawang ke Kali Induk, tapi menyetor sampah itu setiap sore ke tempat pembuatan kompos. Sebagai gantinya, Ibu-ibu tersebut dapat memperoleh benih dan kompos secara cuma-cuma untuk bercocok tanam di pekarangan rumah mereka.
Ibu-Ibu ini berkumpul di kebun Haji Ramin setiap hari selasa. Mereka belajar tentang teori bercocok tanam dan membuat kompos. Pengetahuan yang mereka dapat lalu dipraktekkan di kebun di sekitar rumah mereka, biasanya menggunakan media tanam talang kecil yang ditempel di tembok-tembok rumah yang disediakan oleh pengurus RW 10.
Titi Lestari Kustoyo, salah satu pegiat Rumah Pangan Lestari Kelurahan Tengah mengatakan Ia dan suaminya membuat kebun sendiri di samping rumah dengan bermodal Rp.500 ribu. Tanah seluas 250 meter persegi tersebut ditanami berbagai macam tanaman obat serta sayuran. Ibu Titi mengaku sudah tak lagi membeli kebutuhan sayur untuk keluarga "tinggal petik saja dari kebun" katanya.
Pengeluaran rumah tangga juga berkurang "biasanya saya beli sayur Rp.2000 sehari, kalau dikalikan tiga puluh hari sudah berapa uang yang saya hemat" ujarnya. Sayuran yang diambil langsung dari kebun juga dirasakan lebih enak, selain lebih sehat karena sayuran tersebut masih segar dan tentunya karena menggunakan pupuk organik. Ibu Titi juga mempersilahkan tetangga yang ingin mengambil sayuran maupun tanaman obat jika mereka membutuhkan "saya malah senang kalau tetangga mau mengambil sayur dari kebun saya, ada kenikmatan tersendiri saat kita bisa berbagi" ujarnya.
Setiap bulan, Ibu-ibu ini mengadakan bazar untuk menjual berbagai macam sayuran yang dihasilkan dari kebun mereka untuk menambah pendapatan rumah tangga sekaligus untuk sosialisasi. Di bazar itu dijual berbagai macam sayuran misalnya daun ubi ungu, kenikir dan sayuran yang lain. Pupuk organik juga dijual dengan harga Rp.10.000 per tiga kilogram. Sedangkan jamu hasil olahan tanaman obat yang ditanam di pekarangan rumah, dijual dengan harga Rp.8000 per botol.
Program Rumah Pangan Lestari merupakan program pemerintah yang dimaksudkan untuk mendukung diversifikasi pangan di tingkat rumah tangga. Selain di Kramat Jati, program tersebut telah dikembangkan di delapan lokasi di Jakarta.
Pengembangan KRPL mampu meningkatkan gizi keluarga, menjaga kelestarian lingkungan serta menurunkan pengeluaran tingkat rumah tangga antara 200 ribu–800 ribu rupiah per bulan. KRPL juga meningkatkan peran perempuan dalam mengontrol pendapatan rumah tangga. Hal ini pada gilirannya menyebabkan peningkatan hubungan antara perempuan dan laki-laki. Harga diri perempuan dan keyakinan meningkat dan mereka menjadi lebih terlibat dalam pengambilan keputusan baik di rumah dan di masyarakat.
Empoderamento dos trabalhadores domésticos por meio de legislação adequada, salario justo e aceso a informação
Catalina Gomez, Coordenadora da Rede em Rio de Janeiro
Os trabalhadores domésticos são um grupo bem importante no mercado laboral, especialmente para Ásia e América Latina. Este grupo de trabalhadores inclui governantas, cozinheiros, babás, faxineiros, motoristas particulares e jardineiros, entre outros. Vários países em desenvolvimento apresentam uma histórica ausência de reconhecimento formal a estes trabalhadores, contribuindo ao estabelecimento de horários de trabalho não regulamentados, carência de salários justos e de proteção social.
O Brasil tem o maior número de trabalhadores domésticos do mundo. De acordo com o relatório da Organização Mundial do Trabalho existem 7,2 milhões de trabalhadores domésticos no país, dos quais 6,7 são mulheres (93 por cento do total). O Governo Brasileiro tem reportado que destes trabalhadores um numero cerca de 1,5 milhões estão formalizados o que significa que tem carteira de trabalho assinada e alguns benefícios, como licença médica. O 80 por cento restante ainda não tem registro adequado e benefícios.
Mais a partir de Março 2013 a situação vai a mudar com a aprovação e efetividade da emenda constitucional que assegura aos domésticos direitos iguais aos demais trabalhadores. Alguns dos direitos estabelecidos para os trabalhadores domésticos incluem: jornada de trabalho de 44 horas semanais, com limite de oito horas diárias, pagamento de horas extras e o reconhecimento dos acordos coletivos de trabalho. Outros benefícios previstos, mais que ainda precisam de regulamentação até o próximo Julho incluem: o salário-família, auxílio-creche para filhos de até cinco anos, seguro-desemprego e contribuição para o Fundo de Garantia do Tempo de Serviço (FGTS), que hoje é opcional.
Embora seja cedo para estabelecer os impactos da emenda constitucional, é possível estabelecer alguns possíveis efeitos positivos e negativos. Dentro dos efeitos positivos, vale destacar que para uma grande parte dos trabalhadores está é uma oportunidade para finalmente receber salários justos. Outro efeito positivo é a possibilidade da criação de sindicatos e grupos de apoio na defensa dos direitos coletivos. Só no passado mês seis grupos foram estabelecidos, sendo três deles do Rio de Janeiro. Um possível efeito negativo poderá ser a alça nos serviços domésticos gerando demissões e redução de dias trabalháveis para minimizar os custos dos serviços aos empregadores.
Com referencia ao trabalho de empoderamento ao trabalhador doméstico ao nível local, vale destacar o papel desempenhado por Doméstica Legal no Rio de Janeiro, uma empresa provedora de serviços jurídicos e financeiros a empregadores. Esta foi criada em 2004 para apoiar aos empregadores no cumprimento da legislação referente ao emprego justo. A empresa também oferece uma pagina na internet e aulas focadas nos trabalhadores domésticos para eles conhecer seus direitos e deveres, além da legislação local, destacando a importância da assinatura de contratos formais com seus empregadores. Em 2009 Doméstica Legal criou uma ONG com o mesmo nome para apoiar o desenvolvimento do marco regulamentário em favor dos trabalhadores domésticos no país e continuar os esforços pelo seu reconhecimento e formalização.
Crédito fotográfico: Marcello Casal Jr. e Ana Paula Viana
Empowering domestic workers through adequate legislation, fair compensation, and access to information
Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community Manager
Domestic workers — maids, cooks, baby sitters, gardeners, drivers, and so on — are a very important group within the labor market, especially in Asia and Latin America. However, domestic workers traditionally lack formal recognition, meaning that they have non-regulated working hours and lack proper compensation and access to social protection.
Brazil has the largest number of domestic workers in the world. According to a recent report from the International Labor Organization, there are about 7.2 million domestic workers in Brazil, 93 percent of whom are women. The Brazilian government reports that 20 percent of these workers are formal, meaning that they are properly registered and have access to certain benefits, like sick leave. The remaining 80 percent lack proper registration and the accompanying benefits.
With the constitutional amendment of March 2013, this situation has begun to change: the law requires minimum working conditions for domestic workers, putting them on a par with other salaried workers. The new rights include a regulated workload with a maximum of 8 hours a day or 44 hours a week, paid overtime, and the recognition of labor unions to ensure collective rights. Additional benefits coming within the next few months include childcare support for the children of domestic workers who are under five years old, unemployment insurance, and contribution to a workers fund.
Although it is still too early to evaluate the impact of this constitutional amendment, some consequences are already observable. On the positive side, the legislation ensures that domestic workers are receiving proper compensation and benefits for the first time. The rise of worker unions and support groups have worked to ensure collective rights: six of these groups were established within the first month, three of them in Rio de Janeiro. However, formalization also leads to negative effects: domestic workers are now more expensive to employers, leading to layoffs and the reduction of working hours in order to reduce costs.
Doméstica Legal ("Legal Domestic Worker") is a company created in 2004 in Rio de Janeiro that works at the local level to support domestic workers. The organization provides assistance to employers with regard to the legal requirements of hiring and compensating domestic workers. The company offers a comprehensive web site and also provides assistance to domestic workers so that they can learn about their rights and responsibilities, as well as clarify questions on the importance of having signed contracts with their employers. In 2009, Doméstica Legal created a nonprofit branch to support the creation of regulatory framework in favor of domestic workers nationwide, with the aim of expanding the recognition and the fair compensation of the many Brazilian women working as domestic workers.
Photo credits: Marcello Casal Jr. and Ana Paula Viana