Brecht De Vleeschauwer mozambique fos

Mozambique: How home grown solutions could mitigate national social protection deficits

As Mozambique struggles with extreme poverty and inequality, the effects of climate change and failing pollicy, it is now struck by the covid 19 pandemic. It once again reveals how bad of a shape its social protection systems are in.

Mozambique has a national social protection system in place in line with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202). The schemes are administered by various government departments. These include;

Direct social action; this intervention addresses the needs of the most vulnerable and destitute households (older people, people with disabilities, those who are chronically ill, and households with orphans and vulnerable children. Health social action aims at universal access of the most vulnerable populations to primary health care. Education social action promotes the participation of the most vulnerable populations in the education system. Lastly the Productive social action, jointly managed by different sectors, this intervention aims to promote the economic inclusion of households living in absolute poverty, but with residual capacity to participate in the labour market [1]. However, despite these efforts coverage remains low with less than 500,000 poor households covered, accounting for less than 20% of the estimated poor households [2].

As highlighted previously health security is one such scheme. The scheme is founded on provisions of universal access to primary health care to most vulnerable populations. In reality however, the country has a two tier health system – the public and private. Due to costs related to private health care, most people rely on public health facilities.  These are not always well equipped and do not offer decent health care in terms of respecting patients’ rights. According to FOS partners the Covid outbreak highlights once again the need for a more robust health system that is geared and capacitated to provide basic services to Mozambicans, regardless of class. Partners are unanimous that funding towards health needs to be increased. Part of this could mean government building on schemes and initiatives working closely with communities in improving service delivery at primary level.

While the government provides a national security system, the scheme is not geared towards providing relief to people impacted by the Corona virus or those who have lost their livelihoods as a result of the outbreak. As part of the Covid response, the government has scaled up its special grant aimed at supporting small scale farmers with inputs and equipment. Other than this, no other social protection mechanisms have been put in place. The current world wide health and economic crisis highlights the need for countries to put in place social security systems providing – at least as a first step – basic social security benefits to mitigate the negative socio- economic crisis.

Brecht De Vleeschauwer mozambique fos
Vanwege de omstandigheden is de rurale bevolking genoodzaakt zelfredzaam te zijn. Pedro en Salfina poseren voor hun huis onder constructie. Het koppel zal er samen met hun kinderen wonen.beeld:

Although the State of Emergency has severely impacted economic activity due to limited activity, subsistence farmers are more impacted by drought than the Covid outbreak given the country’s vulnerability to climate shocks. Mozambique is prone to extreme weather conditions. The worst effects of the State of Emergency are felt by informal traders as places of trading have been closed down or movement severely limited including cross border trading. Naturally, this has an impact on food security and social protection for many vulnerable families. The impact is gendered. Women make up the bulk of precarious workers. They are overrepresented in the informal, domestic sectors and many more women work in a subsistence agriculture than men and have less secure access to land.

Although the gap between men and women has become smaller, Mozambique still ranks low on gender equality with gender specific aspects of poverty [3]. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO, 2014), women remain overrepresented among the poor even though they account for more than 80 percent of food (subsistence) producers and 60 percent of labour force participation in Africa.  Across Sub-Saharan Africa, women are more likely to be living in poor households than men. Their poverty status makes them particularly vulnerable to food insecurity particularly in those in rural areas (FAO, 2014). Additionally, the traditional burden of providing for the family needs disproportionately falls on women.

The national social security framework does not address the unequal burden of reproductive labour and other structural gender inequalities. It is for this reason that FOS partners have taken a gendered approach to their Covid response, by focusing on women who now have additional burdens such as unequal burdens of household responsibilities, unpaid work within the home, child care, as well as a loss of income.

In light of impact on economic activities, FOS partners have taken a gendered approach by asking their members to produce masks as a means of supporting their livelihoods. This cooperative approach has far reaching implications. Cooperatives themselves are a form of agency and a strategy towards women’s economic justice especially at a time when governments are failing to address welfare and economic needs. Economic subsistence alleviates women’s vulnerabilities to gender inequalities and other forms of marginalisation particularly in times of socio economic turmoil. A social protection framework buttressed by socio economic rights would weaken the effect of inequalities and power in both public and private spheres.

Adja maakt maïs van xima
De klassieke rollenpatronen houden makkelijker stand door een gebrek aan tewerkstelling. De vrouwen staan ook in voor het voeden van hun families. Adja maakt van maïs xima. Dit maïsmeel vormt de basis van zowat alle maaltijden.beeld:

While FOS partners do not have formal social protection systems, they have come up with resourceful ways to pull their resources together to help in times of need.  Recognising the agency of marginalised groups to take action and to demonstrate solidarity across a range of socio economic challenges.

SINTAF, have been working closely with health experts in the development of information and education materials to help support their members. They have been working with schools in some districts by providing them with inputs and equipment to run food gardens that serve as demonstration plots on which the wider community can learn new techniques. This is important in ensuring farmworker communities have alternatives that will enhance food security.

COMUTRA is working closely with government to raise awareness on the way women are impacted by the outbreak and lack of social protection particularly where reproductive health and sexual rights are concerned. There are concerns that these might be regulated to programming periphery as health programming is increasingly centred on COVID 19. COMUTRA is also working towards ensuring each workplace in which it is active has representatives that focus specifically on women’s issues. COMUTRA has also implemented targeted campaigns aimed at ensuring women’s reproductive rights are not infringed upon during this time

SINED has continued its work in supporting domestic workers to register for social security. The union assists members with claims and processing of paper work on a monthly basis.

UPCG works closely with local health facilities and has Health Committees aimed at ensuring a high standard of service is provided to the rural communities in which it works. UPCG also provides First Aid training to health activities operating in communities that do not have easy access to health facilities. This is an example of social protection and security for rural communities.

UPCG and SINED are involved in savings groups, a scheme where members contribute to social funds aimed at providing insurance and relief in the event of death and illness. The scheme is underlined by the principle of solidarity which by very essence, social protection should be based on. In the main strengthening their activism through a solidarity approach and deepening their understanding of common problems that binds them.  Ultimately, this speaks to the agency and capacity of marginalised resists socio economic turmoil. The FOS Decent Work programme can look at reinforcing some of these activities and structures as part of its social protection programming.

For SINTAF, the State of Emergency has not had any impact on workplace inspections. There are however restrictions on the number of people who can participate in meetings and there is no domestic air travel. The response has been to continue to equip shop stewards to work closely with worker committees in ensuring workers have Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and are not exposed to harmful chemicals and pesticides or Covid. There are also mechanisms in place to facilitate communication among members and other trade unions, including social media platforms.

SINED and COMUTRA do not conduct workplace inspections but instead hold meetings every second Sunday with members through their provincial structures. It is during these meetings that cases or issues affecting workers in general are discussed. Case support is also conducted through online platforms such as WhatsApp.

[1] Extension of Social Security, Towards a Mozambican Social Protection Floor , Consolidating a comprehensive social protection system in Mozambique:

[2] There is a total of 2.46 million poor households in the country, with 12.3 million people living under the basic needs poverty line and average of five members per households ,

[3] Gender Inequality Index from HDR 2017 ranks MZ 138/149.