覃詠欣 (Maggie) (中)，在樂施會負責傳訊工作。看到受惠者在參與項目後展露著滿足而自信的笑容，聽著他們的經歷、改變，成了我最大的原動力。
作者及攝影：李冰心（Donor Communications Officer）
Walking the talk has long been Oxfam’s principle and strategy for poverty reduction. Projects on the ground demonstrate this as people living in poverty work their way through difficulties with some resources and support from NGOs. They have changed the living condition of their communities, and at the same time, inspired other groups to demand for similar rights in society. When a project only reduces poverty in a village, its impact is limited, but when it is proved effective, it is fit to scale up. By doing this, people’s collective voices can be heard, helping them to begin dialoguing with the government and the private sector.
Last year, I visited a group called the Self Employed Women’s Association, or SEWA, which Oxfam has been supporting for over 30 years. SEWA is a trade union that was registered in 1972 and is comprised of poor, self-employed women workers. These women earn a living through their own labour or small businesses – they do not have regular paid employment with welfare benefits like workers in the organised sector. Instead, they are the unprotected labour force of India. Constituting 93% of the labour force, these are workers of the unorganised sector deprived of protection by law.
SEWA’s main goals are to organise women workers for full employment and to ensure that every family obtains it too. Full employment means employment whereby workers obtain work, income, food and social security (at least health care, child care and shelter). They encourage self-reliance, meaning that women should be autonomous and self-reliant, individually and collectively, both economically and in terms of their decision-making abilities.
Having known them and supported them for over 30 years, I was happy to see them growing bigger and stronger institutionally. The SEWA Dehli centre supported women in the sector of domestic work, construction, and home based work. A young girl I met there told me that they were learning to be teachers, fashion designers, IT workers, and other trendy professions in the urban sector. What is more exciting is that they are supported by a private company based in the UK which sponsored their teaching centre, and work in partnership with them based on fair pay to workers.
During a brief visit to their centre, I was told that the women were becoming more confident to speak up with less fear now. They were encouraged by their husbands’ and mother-in-laws’ change in mentality and attitude. At the beginning, the latter did not allow them to work outside of their homes, but upon understanding that the whole family’s welfare could be enhanced if women were allowed to work, they gained their families’ support. With SEWA’s help, a home-based female worker could earn and increase their income from several hundred Hong Kong dollars a month to the equivalent of 3,500HKD a month.
As a collective group, they have met with the new prime minister of India to lobby his support for women empowerment. President Narendra Modi has recently supported women education and empowerment with a fund that was set up by auctioning the gifts he collected from the presidents of other countries in his overseas visits.
Through their collective daily struggle for respect and dignity as employed people in society, they have expanded membership to nine other states and have seen over 1.9 million members join the SEWA movement. SEWA is the largest trade union in India. Out of the total members, 11,000 female construction workers hold identity cards in cities. What’s more, over 7.1 million rupees was mobilised to facilitate financial credit for members in 2009.
It was incredible to see SEWA’s impact on women during my visit. As the saying goes though, time flies when you’re having fun. So, soon it was time to say goodbye to everyone there. Before I did, I went to one of SEWA’s shops that sold hand loom products called Loom Mool. A pioneer in its field and a social enterprise, the shop makes money to support SEWA in the long run. Loom Mool is really a wonderful self-help project that can help many more women in the long run. As Oxfam staff, we are proud of such genuine partnership between us and local movements and organisations.
By Winnie Byanyima — Executive Director of Oxfam International
Across South Asia and Southeast Asia, millions of small family farms are the bedrock of national food security. But the pressure on these farmers is increasing. Population growth is not slowing, demand for land for development is accelerating, and agricultural productivity seems to be reaching a plateau.
When we talk to farmers, they tell us about changes they’re seeing in the climate. Planting season rains are erratic and drought is more common. In 2010, the Mekong River charted its lowest level in two decades; 60 million people living along the river were affected. Vietnam, one of the world’s largest rice producers, is in danger of losing huge swathes of productive land due to rising sea levels.
Family farms provide up to 80 per cent of the food supply in Asia and sub-Saharan African. Supporting these small-scale producers to reach their full potential is one of the simplest strategies that could transform our global food system.
Rural women are these small-scale producers.
Today, to mark the International Day of Rural Women, the time for steadfast political commitment to help rural women has arrived. Government programmes must re-orient themselves. They have a key role in encouraging women farmers and marketing collectives. Women must be the focus when they roll out agricultural support programmes that can bolster crop yields, overcome transportation challenges, and deliver timely market pricing information. The payback is clear – giving women access to the same productive resources as men could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100 to 150 million people.
In the Philippines and Indonesia, we need to see land reform and protection for poor people’s rights to stay on their land. In Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Thailand, irrigation facilities are desperately needed. In fact, financial investment in agro-ecological, climate-resilient sustainable agriculture support for small farms is in short supply.
On a recent visit to India, I learned how recent extreme weather events, such as tropical cyclones, droughts and heavy rains, are having a devastating effect on farm production. Soaring prices across India are forcing Indian families to eat less food or less nutritious food and to cut back on health care, education, and other necessities. Very few women own the land they work on. It’s rare for them to participate in government training programmes.
As South and Southeast Asian countries develop, literacy and medical advancements are improving women’s lives. Could the governments of South and Southeast Asia work together to roll out comprehensive regional plans that have a similar transformational effect for women farmers?
Oxfam is part of a global movement for social justice. In our programmes, we see those with the least power, being pushed to the limits of subsistence. We must help small farmholders claim their rights. And the vital work of rural women must be acknowledged and valued.
Today I thank rural mothers, daughters and grandmothers for producing the food we eat, and I salute those who are the leaders in farming communities all over the world.
於是，我為自己設計了一個獨一無二的路向 —— 到古巴讀書。在古巴整整五年，除了學科知識的得著，我也學會了西班牙語。新的語言技能給我新的思想領域。我始終相信，年輕人不要太早想著工作保障，甘於現狀，反而，要不斷增加技能和經驗，追逐理想，實現願景。
從一九五九年至今，古巴一直關注性別平等問題。革命之後，「古巴婦女聯合會」成立，該組織在國家層面上協調和促進婦女解放、參政議政、福利和賦權等。古巴婦女從一些革命性的社會政策（如教育、衞生、就業和社會保險）和運動中獲益。例如，促進女性參與的平等地位和領導地位，促進女性獲得社會服務，通過培訓提高性別平等意識，並產生了關於性別的統計指標。一九五九年以前，婦女只佔被雇傭勞動力總數的12%，到二十世紀九十年代，婦女所佔的比例已經達到 42%。據調查，二十世紀九十年代末教育部門的工作人員中有 72% 是婦女，衞生部門的工作人員中女性佔到了 67%。國家統計局二零零七年的報導稱，二零零六年在所有技術和專業人士中，婦女的比例已達 66%。
古巴農業部門在提高女性價值方面也取得了巨大成就。一項研究古巴社會的最新調查報告指出，當地農村婦女在教育和就業方面獲益最大，體現出對弱勢群體扶植策略的成效。目前，婦女日漸成為農業、家庭、工作單位、農村社團中重要的勞動力，參與特大的農業發展項目。例如，有 67,576 名婦女參與了都市農業計畫項目，約佔勞動力總數的20%。
文：籌募幹事(資訊) 李冰心 | 照片︰陳燕明
By Oxfam Hong Kong Nepal Team
Almost 10 per cent of the Nepalese population is out of the country in search of a job. Women are often left behind as the head of the household, bearing the double responsibility of care giving and managing livelihood. If not getting proper support, they often feel depressed and have difficulty in meeting livelihood needs of the family and sending their children to school. Oxfam’s projects work closely with these women-headed households, bringing them together into groups and helping them with livelihood opportunity and empowerment. The women in the groups are also members of a cooperative where they can have better access to resources. Organising and empowering women is seen as a means to ensuring sustainable livelihood, improving resilience and enhancing wellbeing.
Working with women and their groups not only helps transform the overall situation of women, but also the families. With enhanced economic leadership, a change in their social status and increased engagement in the decision-making process, the beneficiaries see themselves more as agents for change.
Building capacity and resilience
Dukhana Kewat lives in the Hariharpur Village Development Committee (VDC) of Arghakhanchi District. Her husband, Tribhuwan, used to be a boat man helping people cross the river, but after the construction of the bridge on the river, he lost his business. Having no other source of income, the family decided to take up agriculture as their prime source of livelihood. From the support they received through the Livelihood and Empowerment Programme, they are able to increase their income through vegetable cultivation and send their children to school.
Their village is located in the flood prone areas. With Oxfam’s support, the villagers have set up a disaster management committee and members are being trained in disaster preparedness. The group received a revolving fund and a water pumping machine. In addition, a technician would visit the group and help them fine tune their agricultural practices so that their agricultural production can be enhanced. Dukhana also received a plastic sheet to collect rain water and waste water from her hand pump; she uses the water for her vegetable cultivation. She proudly mentioned that her five children are going to school and she earns good money from her cultivation. She and the other group members are now more confident in coping with floods and drought-like situations.
There are similar cases in other districts too. In Dubia VDC of Kapilbastu District, the cooperative started five years ago with 25 members. Oxfam’s programme helped the community organise into groups and strengthen their cooperative. Now the 25-member cooperative has converted into a cooperative with 776 members, out of whom 563 are women. Through the cooperatives and farmers’ groups, members are able to mobilise government resources and services.
Sita Khanal, whose husband has been working in Saudi Arabia for the last eight to nine years, lives with her two children in Dubia VDC. She joined the Fulwari Group about four years ago and started working in her farms with technical support provided by the group and a loan taken from the group’s revolving fund. Once the cooperative was strengthened, she took a loan of 30,000 Nepalese rupees to purchase a buffalo. A year later she sold it and earned some money. Now she has the calf of that buffalo which can be sold at 25,000 Nepalese rupees. She took another loan to purchase a pumping set to irrigate her vegetable field. With technical support from an agricultural technician, she is able to improve her gardening capacity and earn income by selling vegetables. She sends her son and daughter to a private school and she says that she can manage their school fees even if she does not receive money from her husband regularly.
Claiming the rights of women farmers
The community-based interventions are well linked with campaign and advocacy following Oxfam’s one-programme approach and have helped the women realise their potentiality as a group. Their economic leadership has transformed them into social leaders and now they are raising the issue of their rights as women farmers. On 8 March 2013, International Women’s Day, around 250-300 women farmers in Oxfam’s programme areas came out of their homes to raise awareness on the problems they face as women farmers. They organised rallies, marched to district headquarters, conducted meetings and launched signature campaigns, demanding their rights on land and other resources, as well as increased government investment in agriculture and technical services for the farmers.
These stories demonstrate that women can be transformed from caregivers to social leaders. The positive spin-off for their children, their family life and the community can further transform the society!
Oxfam Hong Kong has worked in Nepal since 2005. Promoting wellbeing of the community, reducing poverty and injustice, enhancing resilience and women-centred interventions are some of the key elements that have guided our interventions in Nepal. Our community-based work is linked with policy advocacy and empowers small-hold farmers to demand their rights and entitlements. In the last five years, Oxfam’s Livelihood and Empowerment Programme in Nepal has reached more than 90,000 people and supported 833 self help groups, farmer groups and youth groups in five districts for livelihood development and disaster preparedness.