Network of Homebased Workers
in South Asia

Movement of Home Based Workers in South Asia

HomeNet South Asia is a network organisation of women homebased workers promoted by UNIFEM and SEWA. It was set up after the Kathmandu Declaration, formulated in an international conference convened in Nepal in year 2000. Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) provided the technical and research foundation on which the Kathmandu Declaration was based. The formal launching of HomeNet South Asia was held on January 17, 2007 in the Conference “Women Work & Poverty Policy Conference on Home Based Workers of South Asia” which was inaugurated by the then Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh.

Facts & Figures

Global Scenario
A survey in seven countries revealed that Homebased workers represent between 10 and 25 per cent of the non-agricultural workforce ...

Who are Home Based Workers

Homebased workers are:
Own-account workers, and contributing family workers helping the own-account workers, involved in the production of goods and services for the market, ...

“Look at this teddy bear, it is fantastic”, the cute little girl with twinkling eyes cheered, every time when I bent down to see the quality of the mattress” Never seen a little kid take so much delight in an ordinary simple teddy bear. But for the Nepali children who had just survived the devastating earthquake, even a simple gesture of compassion was enough to make smiles.

HNSA team was in Khokana, a small village, 8 Km south of Kathmandu, Nepal, as part of a field visit. Interestingly, similar expressions from children and home based workers greeted me everywhere I went. Read more..

HomeNet South Asia has partnered with Aim of our Regional Development (ROAD) in Bhubaneshwar (India) to empower homebased workers leaders. They have organized around 1000 hbws around papad making, agarbati, pottery, stitching and bamboo making in 35 groups. These groups have actively been working on their urban civic and livelihood issues since Dec 2013. HNSA has conducted Capacity Building Trainings for these leaders. With two years organizing efforts, group is ready towards formalization in the form of Co-operatives to initiate collective enterprise. Therefore, HNSA in association with Road has indentified two trades Papad & Agarbatti Workers whose groups can be registered as Co-operative in Bhubaneshwar.

To understand the concept of Co-operative, HNSA has contracted with Gujarat State Womens Sewa Cooperative Federation (Sewa Federation) to orient and facilitate the dialogue on the cooperative as an intervention for livelihood of homebased workers engaged into Agarbati & Papad . Therefore, Exposure & Dialogue Programme has been organized for the leaders and staff of Road from 5th – 7th November,2015 wherein they will be oriented to form of co-operative and various co-operatives formed by SEWA Federation, as an intervention to address livelihood need.

Please check the draft agenda here

The crisis in the urban life is much greater than we usually anticipate. Lack of stable income, dwindling opportunities in formal sector and rising food prices affect urban life badly. But there are many women who refuse to give up and struggle against all odds. In our field visit to low income housing colonies of Ahmedabad city, HNSA team were able to meet some home based women workers who really work hard to help the family overcome the financial crisis. It is interesting to note that even though they play an active role in the industry, nobody recognizes their contribution and efforts. They always remain behind the curtains; neither the employer nor the government accepts their immense contribution.

The assembling of decoration bulbs that the women in Ahmedabad are doing involve far more strength and strain than it might at first seem. They are doing it after completing other chores like washing clothes, grinding, cutting vegetables, cleaning vessels, and feeding different family members at different times.

Electrical Series made by HBWS

Looking after children is always their responsibility. All these tasks are seen as ‘women’s work’ -- and never paid for. We met four women workers who have been doing the electrical assembling work for the last 3 years. All of them belong to economically and socially backward category. They live in a one room AUDA flat which was purchased before 5-7 years at the rate of Rs. 60,000- 70,000. Originally the society was built by AUDA to rehabilitate the displaced slum inhabitants. Though the slum residents were allotted the flats free, later some of them sold out their flats to outsiders.

The women we met purchased their flats from the erstwhile slum dwellers. They prefer to work from home because they can do this task after completing household responsibilities. Domestic work involves commuting and they feel that working from home will allow them to manage family responsibilities side by side with job. They get Rs. 10 per piece. Doing a piece take 40 minutes on an average. They can easily do 5 pieces per day. Hence, they earn approximately Rs.50 per day. Monthly earning is not fixed. It varies from Rs. 750 to Rs. 3000 depending on the flow of work. They are willing to do more work. But they clearly said that they do not get regular work from the employer. This is contrary to the claims made by the employer. Apart from assembling work, they are also engaged in packaging the finishing products and quality checking. The raw materials are distributed once in 10 days and payments are made at the end of the month. They have not yet started their own accounting. They just collect the money given by the contractor.

Homebased Worker engaged into assembling electric series

Assembling of fan regulators & Extension Board by HBWs

They never received bonus for their contribution. Bonuses are given only for the workers who have been doing this job for more than 5 years or more. Even those workers get a bonus ranging from RS. 250 to Rs. 500 depending on the volume they have done. They have no savings. They are ignorant about the government schemes/ social security and other related information. Government/ Corporation/ Political parties never visit or provide information to them. During census they didn’t disclose the working status to officials.

The employer operates from a small flat within the same colony. According to him, operating from this low income colony play substantial role in lowering his overhead as he gets office place for low rent and gets cheap labour. He sells the products under the brand name Trunisa. He admitted that the involvement of this women home based workers indeed played a key role in his business success. He also stated, around 80 per cent of women worldwide are engaged in electronic assembling whether in factory or home. Reason, women have more patience in doing assembling work, unlike men. But their contribution is no where seen in the supply chain. They aren’t sure how and where their output is used. Nevertheless, they do not want to lose the job. They feel that they can make both ends meet with the help of this extra income- a hard reality that is cleverly exploited by the employer to advance his business. We can see millions of such poor homebased women workers across the country, living far away from the rhetoric of empowerment and emancipation. Still, they prefer to work under exploitation, because for these women, somehow, life must go on.

The women we met purchased their flats from the erstwhile slum dwellers. They prefer to work from home because they can do this task after completing household responsibilities. Domestic work involves commuting and they feel that working from home will allow them to manage family responsibilities side by side with job. They get Rs. 10 per piece. Doing a piece take 40 minutes on an average. They can easily do 5 pieces per day. Hence, they earn approximately Rs.50 per day. Monthly earning is not fixed. It varies from Rs. 750 to Rs. 3000 depending on the flow of work. They are willing to do more work. But they clearly said that they do not get regular work from the employer. This is contrary to the claims made by the employer. Apart from assembling work, they are also engaged in packaging the finishing products and quality checking.

At Employers’ Place- Testing Current

The raw materials are distributed once in 10 days and payments are made at the end of the month. They have not yet started their own accounting. They just collect the money given by the contractor.


HomeNet South Asia (HNSA) & Aim of our Regional Development (Road) had a meeting with Hon’ Mayor of Bhubaneshwar on 4th August, 2015. The objective of the meeting was to take up the urban civic issues of the slums (Jharana Sahi & Sitanath Nagar) where Road is implementing the Pilot Programme with HomeNet South Asia.

During the meeting, Sanitation Issue and Water Stand Posts issues were discussed. Immediately, Mayor introduced us to the concerned engineers for immediate actions in the said slums.

He also agreed to provide Residence Proof to the Women Homebased Workers in the slums where Road is implementing the Urban Programme, which is need of the Slum Dwellers.

  • Water Stand Post - Sitanath Nagar (Bhubaneshwar)

  • Sanitation Issue - Jharana Sahi (Bhubaneshwar)

  • Residence Proof Given by Hon' Mayor to Slum Dwellers of Tati Basti- Bhubaneshwar

HomeNet South Asia Team visited Nepal in May, 2015 after the Nepal Earthquake Disaster to assess the situation of Homebased Workers in terms of their loss in homes, tools/ equipments and job orders and in addition to explore livelihood opportunities for the affected homebased workers

HomeNet South Asia (HNSA) has 6 Member organizations- Saathi, Women for Human Rights (WHR), SABAH Nepal, Homebased Workers’ Concern Society (HBWCN), Khonkana Women Awareness Society (KWAS), and Class Nepal in Nepal whose reach is to around 14,000 Homebased Workers (HBWs) in different districts of Nepal.

Team visited four districts- Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Nuwakot and Kavre and covered 13 clusters Godawari, Ramhiti, Jaagritinagar, Pathibhara, Mulpani, Bungamati, Khonkana, Dhulikhel, Machhegaun, Sunakoti, Sankhu, Khanikhola and Buddha where the member organizations were working with hbws. The Method of Assessment was through Focussed Group discussions.

Homebased Workers in these clusters were mainly engaged into below mentioned trades which are categorized into piece rate & own account workers

Piece Rate Workers: - Stitching; Carpet Weaving; Knitting; Dhup Making; embroidery; carpet making; Buddhist Handicrafts; Butti Making; Radi Weaving

Own – Account Workers: - Food Stall; Chatai Making; Drying of Palak; Retailer & Agarbatti Shop; Furat Dana Making; Briquette fuel;

During our visit, we observed that 1) the shops are closed from where the homebased workers were getting orders. (Reason:- Either the shopkeepers are Indian or at places the shopkeepers have lost their houses or shopkeepers themselves are not getting orders from other bigger shops) 2) At places; hbws were getting orders or raw materials from the Indian Shops; but after the earthquake Indians have returned to their country 3) Hbws were still in trauma and they feared to live their kids back home and buy raw materials from the market 4) Main Priority for Hbws was to rebuild their homes; as home is workplace for homebased workers 5)Homebased Workers also didn’t have enough capital to buy raw material and restart their work 6) Homebased Workers engaged into Embroidery have lost Embroidery Tan.Check Detailed Visit Report

Immediately after the Earthquake also, HomeNet South Asia supported its 6 member Organization with required Relief Material of Tarpaulins, Mosquito Coils & Sanitary Napkins. Also, HNSA facilitated linkages with support agencies like UN Women-Nepal, American Jewish Development Committee (JDC), Un Residence Representative-Nepal, Innovative Solutions, etc providing relief and rehab work. In addition to the linkages, HomeNet South Asia is also awarded Project on “Rehabilitation Support for homebased Workers in Nepal” by American Jewish Development Committee (JDC) for its 6 Members Organizations in Nepal.

American Jewish Development Committee (JDC), soon after the earthquake organized Psycho-Socio Counselling in May 2015 for the Staff and Leaders of member organizations of HomeNet South Asia.The detailed documentation of the impact of the training can be checked here.

Read More..

Training on “Organizing and Leadership”:- 8th -11th September,2014

Training on “Organizing and Leadership” for the hbws leaders of Bhubaneshwar has been organized by HomeNet South Asia(HNSA) in association with Indian Academy for Self Employed Women’s Association (IASEW) from 8th -11th September,2014 under the Funding Leadership Opportunities for Women(Flow) Programme. HomeNet South Asia has partnered with Aim of our Regional Development(Road) under Inclusive Cities Project to mobilize and organize homebased workers around urban issues in Bhubaneshwar. 18 Leaders organised by Road and 3 staff ( Mobilizer, Programme Manager & Chairperson) will be attending the Training, some of these leaders have already taken up the basic foundation Training on “Organizing & Leadership” in Feb 2014 in Bhubaneshwar.

After a period of time, as these leaders are continuously working in the field, there was a need felt to address their issues at ground level. Therefore, four days training and field visits with Indian School of Academy would address their prevailing issues and challenges like Organizing around their Issues, Formation of groups ,Communication Techniques, Information sharing among the group, Motivation and activation of group, Benefits of Organizing, Running the group, Trust Building and transparency.


HomeNet South Asia with SEWA has been awarded a project “ Strengthening the livelihood of homebased workers in South Asia” has promoted non-profit company called SABAH in all 7 countries of South Asia- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Under this programme, capacity building is one of the important components, where they are given exposure to SEWA in Ahmedabad to understand the collective production and supply chain of production.

Recently, group of weavers (18 homebased workers) with two staff- (Marketing and Designer) from SABAH Bhutan visited SEWA Trade Facilitation Centre for their 7 days exposure. During their exposure, they visited HomeNet South Asia to understand about issues and intervention taken at Regional level for homebased workers. After providing them orientation on HNSA programme, discussion was open up to understand their issues and need of homebased workers in Bhutan. During the interaction, weaver homebased workers mentioned,” in Bhutan, Homebased Workers are recognized as homebased workers and therefore, they want to have national policy on homebased workers for their recognition. As there are many own account and piece rate workers, they have understood the importance of organising, after joining SABAH Bhutan. Today, we are able to earn our livelihood and we can support our family. We would want HNSA to work in Bhutan for homebased workers to advocate for child care centre, health insurance and housing. Housing in Thimpu (capital of Bhutan) is becoming very expensive. As rooms are small, our weaving quality effects, hence, we want to have collective work centre” On asking, what kind of publication would be useful for them, they responded, publication on various weaving techniques of South Asia and designs of weaving, shall be very helpful.

Read More..


Two Senior officials from Ethiopian Embassy in India had visited SEWA from 31st July to 2nd August, 2014 to understand about SEWA and its services provided to their members. Also, they wanted to understand HomeNet South Asia’s structure as Membership Based Organisation Network at Regional level for homebased workers and programme area. While presenting HNSA’s programme and policy initiatives taken for homebased workers, they were interested in exploring livelihood initiatives taken by HNSA under its SABAH ( South Asian Business Association of Homebased Workers ) and Outreach Programme. During exchange of programme, they informed, about Homebased workers in Ethiopia; mostly engaged with handicrafts work, who rely on tourist market to sell their products. They echoed the problems of hbws in south Asian countries are similar to Ethiopian for instance, working long hours in one posture doing bead work has taken away their eyesight.

This meeting was good exchange on homebased workers in South Asia and in Africa. We see this as an opportunity to build international solidarity for homebased workers.

See Photos..

Strengthening the Movement of Homebased Workers

Workshop & Field Visits on “Strengthening the Movement of Homebased Workers-Sharing experience and learning together” was organized by Women in Informal Economy- Globalizing & Organizing in collaboration(WIEGO) with World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) in Nairobi, Kenya from 12th -15th August, 2014. The workshop was attended by the participants from South Asia-Nepal, Pakistan & Srilanka & Africa -Kenya, Uganda, Egypt & South Asia. The main objective of the workshop was to to bring together representatives of HBWs and support groups from the two continents(Asia & Africa) to participate at international forums of HBWs to acquire knowledge and experiences on how HBWs can organize themselves. The four day workshop & field visits ended up with the next plan of action for the groups and support organizations for homebased workers.

See Photos..

Day 1 of the workshop- 12th August, 2014

Chris Bonner, Director & Representation(South Africa)-Presenting about WIEGO

Sri Lanka & Kenya Group work on “About Homebased Workers and Challenges” in their country.

Nepal & Kenya Group work on “About Homebased Workers and Challenges” in their country

SriLankan Leaders sharing their experience on “Organizing HBWs & its Benefits”

Field visit to Malemba Group, Machakos


A two and half day Regional Conference of City Authorities on Homebased Workers was organised by HomeNet South Asia in collaboration with HomeNet Thailand on 7-8-9th May, 2014 at Hotel Amari Garden Pattaya, Thailand. City Mayors, administrators, networks of homebased workers and organisations working with homebased workers from eight countries of South and South East Asia – namely, Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Nepal, Philippines, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand – participated in the event.

The objectives of the conference were the following:

  • To highlight how good civic amenities impact on the productivity, livelihoods and quality of life of urban homebased workers.
  • To share programmes and experiences regarding the means of addressing issues of homebased workers in South and South East Asia, in partnership with City Authorities.
  • To adopt an ‘Asian Cities Declaration’ and to identify country-specific issues that could be taken up by or in partnerships with City Authorities, to address urban issues of homebased workers.

The Hon’ble Acting Governor of Bangkok, Dr. Pusadee Tamthai, was the chief guest at the inaugural session. In her inaugural address, Dr. Pusadee said, ‘Homebased workers should not only get civic amenities because they contribute to the economy significantly, but also because it is their human right’. She added further, ‘there is a great need for coordination among the various departments and agencies that provide different services in Bangkok as the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority alone is not responsible for all the services’. She also felt that ‘it is the duty of the officials to visit the field, to get a better understanding of issues’ and emphasized the ‘need to understand the structure of the city administration, so that the right person or organisation could be approached’. In her closing remarks she mentioned, ‘there is a need for all government officials to have a positive attitude so that they can provide better and more effective services to the people, including homebased workers’.

Dr. Malee Pruekpongsawalee, representative of HomeNet Thailand, welcomed the delegates. Ms. Chandni Joshi, Enforcer of HomeNet South Asia, addressed the gathering. Two local homebased workers, Ms. Neeramol Suthipannaphong and Mr. Somkid Duang-ngeun, shared their views and concerns. Dr. Martha Chen, from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and International Coordinator of WIEGO, gave the key note address.

Statistical Briefs on homebased workers from four countries – Bangladesh , India , Nepal , Pakistan – were launched by the Hon’ble Acting Governor Dr. Pusadee Tamthai and Dr. Martha Chen. It was noted throughout the conference that for any kind of planning or policy and programme formulation, statistics on homebased workers are essential and these can often be derived from national labour force surveys if the surveys are modified to ask the correct questions.

There were five panel discussions during the conference to discuss the key urban issues affecting homebased workers. The panels were a) Basic Infrastructure Services, Part 1 – Water and Sanitation, b) Basic Infrastructure Services, Part 2 - Public Transport and Electricity, c) Secure and Adequate Housing, d) Livelihood Support through Local Bodies, and e) Health (health insurance, maternity benefits/care) and Occupational Health and Safety.

On the concluding day of the conference an ‘Asian Cities Declaration on Homebased Workers’ was adopted, based on the recommendations of the conference. This will serve as a road map for Governments and City Authorities to address issues of urban homebased workers in South and South East Asia and include them in their planning and implementation processes.

Report of Regional Conference of City Authorities on Homebased Workers

From Ahmedabad to the UN Panel – Renana Jhabvala campaigns for women’s economic empowerment.

Padma Shri awardee Renana Jhabvala, an Ahmedabad-based social worker has been invited to serve as a panelist on a UN panel on women’s economic empowerment. The United Nations has established the panel to provide recommendations on improving economic outcomes for women and promoting women’s leadership in driving sustainable, inclusive and environmentally-sensitive economic growth in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“I am convinced that gender equality and women’s empowerment and specifically women’s economic empowerment-are intrinsic to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Yet, large gender gaps in economic opportunities and outcomes remain across all countries and regions,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said in a communication to Renana inviting her to be on the panel.

Daughter of Booker-prize winning novelist and screen-writer, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, and well-known architect Cyrus S H Jhabvala, Renana has been active for decades in organising women into organisations and trade unions in India and is extensively involved in policy issues relating to poor women and the informal economy.

Renana, a Harvard graduate, is the Nation Coordinator of the Self-Employed Women’s Association of India (SEWA), trade union for poor, self-employed women workers in India founded by noted Gandhian and civil rights leader Ela Bhatt. (PTI)


Key Highlights:

  • ASIA FLOOR WAGE meet on 26-27th December, in Karachi
  • Provincial policy on homebased workers ready for Punjab province
  • Provincial Punjab Labour Policy to be announced soon,
  • “Cooperative”- model towards economic empowerment- collective enterprise of garment workers “Kavish”
  • Local government election- almost 100 women homebased workers contesting election,
  • Linking 25 homebased workers with local markets in karachi- earning PKRs. 300 a day
Read more..

NEWSLETTER : ISSUE - 4 Homebased Workers’ Strategy Planning Meeting

The homebased worker strategy meeting was held in Istanbul, Turkey in the month of September, and HomeNet South Asia participated in the planning process. The key objective of the meeting was to assess the progress and direction of interventions undertaken by all organisation that are part of WIEGO, evaluate fundraising strategies,..Read more


We think, gender mainstreaming and women’s proportional representation in Reconstruction Authority is a must. Thus, we urge the government to ensure” leadership role for women in the reconstruction Campaign”. Read more


We, the members of 60 networks, associations and trade unions of home-based workers, together with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and researchers from 24 countries, met in New Delhi on the 8th and 9th of February 2015 at the Global Conference of Home-based Workers,..Read more


Homebased workers are typically isolated and invisible because they work from home..Read more

Ms Chandni Joshi - Enforcer of HomeNet South Asia Trust is invited to speak as the civil society at a high level panel at the plenary of the World Humanitarian Summit in Geneva from 14 Oct - 16 Oct, 2015

INAUGURAL ADDRESS by Dr. Sheel Kant Sharma, Ambassador of India to Austria & Permanent Representative to UN Office in Vienna & IAEA and former Secretary General of South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)

Valedictory Address By Roberta Clarke, Regional Director, UN Women, Asia Pacific Region

Vision Statement

HomeNets in South Asia envisions a scenario in which Homebased Workers are visible, protected, promoted, empowered ..