“Women’s Rights to Greater Access to Adequate Basic Social Services”
The People’s Policy on “Women’s Rights to Greater Access to Adequate Basic Social Services” is proposed and made by the Cambodian grassroots women from the garment and sex industries aims for the dialogue with the government and relevant stakeholders.
This Policy creates opportunities for women at the ground to draw the common problems, and raise their strategic solutions and recommendations to address their needs, particularly the rights to basic social services, including housing or rental, utilities, health, safety and security.
The initial stage was begun with the Community Forum on 29th March 2015 as part of the celebration of the International Women’s Day with the theme of “Women Rights to Greater Access to Adequate Basic Social Services”. The development process of this policy will take one year, and the first draft is expected to be made by March 2016.
Background of Campaign:
Women are the back bone and key actor contributing to sustainable development of society, nation, and the world. Women’s issues and women’s rights, in the last decades, are promoted and put in the world development agendas, such as the Millennium Development Goal which is now called Sustainable Development Goal. However, this global policy and agenda are not set by women, and most women are kept behind the development.
Cambodia has put women’s issues and rights in its national strategic development plan under gender equality and equity promotion and enhancement programs. However, gender inequality remains high in almost every sector. No or limited access to free and/or affordable quality basic social services and basic needs of women including healthcare, education, shelter, food safety and security, safe transportation, safe and secure employment, and livelihood, are main factors that lead to the existing high gender inequality; without these essential social services, women cannot fully and freely exercises her rights, especially cannot access to the same opportunities mostly make it available for men.
Privatisation of social services, including healthcare, education, and electricity was imposed by the World Bank and International Monitory Fund in 1980s through their overseas development aids under the Structural Adjustment Program as well as Poverty Reduction Strategy Plan.
Privatisation is made through public administration reform which takes away public investment on social services. Instead promote private investment in the name of partnership with private sector in operating services. The bank believes it is an effective and sustainable way to strengthening quality of services compare to the state operation. This means that private sector has stronger role than the government in operating services that Cambodians are in need. The structural adjustment for privatisation of public services also take away the commitment, role and responsibility of the government as the duty barrier to ensure that every Cambodian citizen have access to basic needs and adequate public services.
In Cambodia, United Sisterhood Alliance (Us) comprising of four local women organizations: Social Action for Change, Worker’s Information Center, Women’s Network for Unity, and the Messenger Band, has been working directly with women garment workers and sex workers and entertainment workers, and indirectly working with farmers to support their struggles. Their demands for the right to access to basic social services, improving working conditions and living wage and the right to livelihood as the fundamental rights to all. During the Community Forum in March 2015 was a stepping stone that Us brought 250 participants, majority were grassroots women from various sectors including garment workers, sex workers, farmers, people living with HIV/AIDS and most at risk populations, land communities, fishery communities, forest communities, health activists, and youths to discuss their problems and raise some demands.
Collective initiative, voice and demands for common needs are the key to advocate against privatisation. Women workers and communities through the coordination of Us were able to identify and understand gap between government and citizens, as well as the absence of or limited participation of people in the process of policy making. Therefore, the People’s Policy is the process that women from the ground are examining the possibility that women could work together, use her rights to hold the government accountability act in collaboration to solving problems.
Currently after the Community Forum, Us are conducting consultation workshops reflecting the problems with analysing existing laws and policies related to services and provide strategic recommendation that involve relevant stakeholders such as the government from the national level and local authority, private sector, unions and communities to be part of the solution. Us aims to organise another mini forum in the IWD 2016 to reviewing the concrete demands and strategic recommendations reflecting existing policies and laws.
It is important to ensure that protecting women’s rights, improving women’s situation, and enhancing gender equality and equity, participation of women in strategic solutions and policy development platform. The “People’s Policy” will be made as a simple format that having all strategic solutions and recommendations proposed by women to the government and all relevant stakeholders. The Policy is meant to make the inclusiveness of women toward the government targeting the 6th election mandate and leadership in 2018.
The People’s Policy Development Process:
Participation from grassroots people particularly women are very important for the development of People’s Policy. For this People Policies, the development process will take one year, and there are three main phases for this development including local consultation with women at the ground, consultation with other women organizations and groups, and the second community forum in 2016.
Local consultation with women at the ground is a five-month process started from August to December 2015. United Sisterhood Alliance will spend times to meet, talk, analyse existing and relevant national policies and laws on social services and basic needs with women garment workers, sex workers and entertainment workers, and to consult with them to produce first draft of People Polices. Within this phase, women workers will be given the space and chance to learn more on the existing and relevant national policies on social services that directly impact to their lives, and they also have the opportunity to share their concerns, their analysis on the gaps of all laws and policies, and give their recommendations and propose solutions to put in the draft of People Policies. This consultation is aiming to engage with around 400 women workers.
The consultation with other women organization and group will be made during December 2015 after the local consultation. United Sisterhood Alliance will have a formal consultative meeting with identified partners who are local and international women organizations and groups to seek for their participation and support on the development of People’s Policy, and to draw a joint action plan if common interest are found.
The second community forum will be conducted in 2016 with an approximate 500 participants who are women workers engaged in the local consultation and previous community forum, women groups from other women organization, farmers, and health activists. The expected outcome from this forum is to get the final draft of People’s Policy and a joint action plan getting the Policy to the government and taking it into account.
The whole process of People’s Policy development is to empowering grassroots women, starting from garment and sex workers with full of their ownership of the recommendations toward their problems and needs. They are active citizens and change makers on making essential public services reality to all.