War on Want works directly with inspirational grassroots groups of people who are on the front line of the battle against poverty and injustice.
Some of the global groups and organisations we have worked with are listed below
Abahlali baseMjondolo (people who stay in shacks) was established in 2005. It is a shack dweller movement organised in 22 informal settlements in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. It has a membership of over 11,000. At the heart of the organisation's values and objectives is the rights of poor people to have decent housing and access to affordable basic services. Abahlali campaigns for decent public housing; provision of water, sanitation and refuse removal in informal settlements; electrification of shacks to prevent recurrent fires; an end to evictions and forced removals. Abahlali organises community workshops to raise awareness on the right to housing and basic services; it engages politically through protest marches on offices of local and provincial authorities, police and municipal offices,and through negotiations and meetings with authorities, policy makers and politicians. Abahlali has successfully engaged in litigation, including Constitutional Court challenges, that has seen eviction law developed to its threshold. They have set up income generating projects for shack dwellers. They have also created food gardens to keep shack dwellers food secure.
ADDAMEER (Arabic for conscience) Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association is a Palestinian non-governmental, civil institution that works to support Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli and Palestinian prisons. Established in 1992 by a group of activists interested in human rights, the centre offers free legal aid to political prisoners, advocates their rights at the national and international level, and works to end torture and other violations of prisoners' rights through monitoring, legal procedures and solidarity campaigns. Our relationship with Addameer ensures we can bring the latest news and reports affecting imprisoned Palestinians to our UK campaigns.
Agricultura Familiar e Agroecologia. In Brazil 40 % of the poor live in rural areas. Unequal land distribution and agricultural policies that favour large-scale industrial agriculture are at the root of Brazil's agricultural issues.
AS-PTA (Family Agriculture and Agroecology) is leading the campaign against genetically modified organisms in Brazil (GMOs) and against the use of agrochemicals. Under pressure from multinational biotechnology firms and commercial farmers, Brazil's government recently relaxed biosafety regulation on the sale of genetically modified seeds. Brazil is the second largest grower of biotech crops in the world, next to the US, growing soybean, maize, and
Small-scale farmers are now faced with a doubled edged sword. GM seeds are more expensive, therefore increasing their costs, but at the same time they are producing poorer harvests. However, few options are now available to family farmers as GM seeds are dominating the market. These farmers depend on the ability to store and share native seeds within their communities, but this right could be challenged by the biotechnology firms that sell the seeds. Farmers will also need to protect their crops from accidental contamination from GMOs to prevent allegations of illegal use of the GM seeds due to the patents that are placed on them.
War on Want is pleased to support AS-PTA in its work to monitor and oppose the commercial release of GMOs, and at the same time counter the effects of GMO growth by:
- Working with small farmers to promote the use of local varieties of seeds, which in contrast to GM seeds don't cost anything and will also produce for generations of harvests to come
- Supporting small farmers to monitor the effects of GM seeds, including contamination of non GM crops
- Raising awareness of the dangers and growth of GM, with small farming communities and also the Brazilian public at large
AS-PTA has been supporting sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty in Brazil for over 20 years by promoting and strengthening family and ecological farming. It acts as a partner and advisor for small-scale farmers and family agriculture, promoting ecological practices in order to influence policymaking towards sustainable practices. Recently it played a prominent role in developing the National Brazilian Policy on Agroecology, adopted by the government in October 2013.
As a member of the umbrella group for all organisations working on ecological farming in Brazil, the AS-PTA plays an active part in regional and national networks, civil society working groups and public agricultural bodies. Regionally and nationally, the AS-PTA develops extensive ecological farming information resources to support initiatives that influence public policy.
AZIEA was formed by Zambian street vendors and marketers living in slums as a direct response to harassment and discrimination from local and national authorities. This spontaneously happened at a seminar hosted by Workers Education Alliance Zambia attended by other workers’ organisations including the Zambian Council of Trade Unions, where informal sector associations agreed to form an alliance to unite workers and protect their right to live and work in the city. From these beginnings and its association with WEAZ, AZIEA has continued to be driven by informal sector workers’ needs and maintained a commitment to protecting their rights, education and uniting workers through bottom up democratic participatory processes.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sacntions National Committee (BNC) is the Palestinian coordinating body for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign worldwide.
The broad consensus among Palestinian civil society about the need for a broad and sustained Campaign for BDS resulted in the Palestinian Call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel that was launched in July 2005. The signatories to this call represent the three major components of the Palestinian people: the refugees in exile, Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the discriminated Palestinian citizens of the Israeli state.
In Colombia women flower workers face similar challenges to their Zambian counterparts. With uncertain short term contracts sickness or pregnancy can result in no further work. Colombia is the world’s second biggest flower exporter, and the mainly women who work in the industry deserve protection and pay equal to that of their male colleagues. War on Want works with Cactus, a local organisation which provides legal advice and skills development for women.
Our partner, the Honduran Women’s Collective (Codemuh), have been fighting for women’s rights for over 20 years. They are the only organisation challenging the lack of workplace health and safety protection, and have successfully contested numerous cases on behalf of women suffering occupational disease.
Defense for Children International (DCI) Palestine is a national section of Defense for Children International and is an independent NGO registered in Palestine. DCI Palestine is dedicated to protecting the rights of Palestinian children. They monitor and report on abuses of the rights of Palestinian children, as well as provide legal services, lobbying and advocacy. Their work charts the ongoing indiscriminate violence which takes the lives of children in Palestine - since 2000 they have charted over 1400 child deaths. Working with DCI Palestine enables us to stay in touch with one of the worst impacts of the illegal Occupation – the tragic physical and psychological suffering of Palestinian children.
War on Want works with the largest union in Sri Lanka, the Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union (FTZGSEU). For over 30 years they’ve been at the forefront of battling for workers. Free Trade Zones and their like have eroded rights for workers around the globe. In Sri Lanka, as elsewhere, it is mainly women who are exploited by their reduced regulatory frameworks and minimal protection for labourers. We are privileged to have stood alongside FTZGSEU as they have won monumental increases in wages and work inexorably towards a living wage.
Formed in 2009, the Housing Assembly is a housing social movement organising poor people in the Western Cape, South Africa. It has a membership of over 6,500 representing over 20 communities. Housing Assembly campaigns for the rights of poor people to decent housing and affordable basic services. It campaigns together with shack dwellers; backyard dwellers who are squatting; people who are living in dilapidated social housing and facing evictions, provision of water, electricity and sanitation;and an end to evictions and forced removals. Housing Assembly uses grassroots organising methods used by anti-apartheid movements in the 1980s (door-to-door visits and community speakouts) to raise awareness of housing rights and the right to basic services. They engage with city officials, local and provincial authorities through protests and negotiations. It has successfully helped develop eviction laws to its threshold. Housing Assembly also supports income generating projects and works with drug affected communities.
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment is a national network of environmental advocates in the Philippines. The organisation was established to enable greater coordination around environmental issues that continue to undermine the lives of marginalised people. It is the lead organisation of the Defend Patrimony! Movement against trans-national mining corporations and their plunder of natural resources.
KENASVIT is a national organization with a membership of 10,000 informal economy workers from 16 affiliates. This includes street vendors and informal traders (70% women and 20% disabled people) in 16 districts in Kenya. KENASVIT’s main purpose is to organize and empower street vendors and informal traders to improve their livelihoods and well-being. It does this through organising and recruiting informal traders; capacity building of members, their representative urban alliances and their national organisation; raising awareness on the rights of informal traders; engaging in local level advocacy with local authorities and other relevant institutions for better living and working conditions; and engaging in national level advocacy to develop and implement a legislative framework that recognisesand protects the rights of informal traders in Kenya. KENASVIT works with its urban alliances to set up self-financing groups to grow their small businesses, increase incomes& improve livelihoods. KENASVIT successfully lobbied for the development of legislation that recognises and protects the rights of informal traders to trade freely, making Kenya the first sub-Saharan country to do so.
La Via Campesina
Small-scale farmers, peasants, rural women, farm workers and indigenous communities in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and even Europe and the US, suffer constant violations of their rights. But they refuse to passively let their rights be trampled on, and have organised in a broad, international movement called La Via Campesina - the Way of the Peasant - which is committed to making small-scale farmers' voices heard. La Via Campesina represents millions of small-scale farmers around the world and offers an opportunity for them to unite and resist the exploitation multinational corporations and governments subject them to.
War on Want supports La Via Campesina's struggle for a just world. We have helped bring together small-scale farmer organisations for conferences in South Asia and London, and we have raised funds for key forums. Creating links between the many small-scale farmer organisations that represent millions of people over the world is vital to stopping the damaging impact of policies of international institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation.
Movimento Interestadual de Quebradeiras de Coco Babaçu. Women babaçu breakers are one of the most marginalised groups of workers in Brazil and their source of livelihood is in danger. During the 1990s, a collection of local grassroots organisations formed a movement, the MIQCB, the Movement of the Women Babaçu Nut Breakers, to voice the concerns and demands of the nut breakers, improve their living conditions, and challenge society’s perceptions of their status and value.
The babaçu breakers, who represent about 400,000 women, live in the 18 million hectares of forest between the Amazon and the semi-dry areas in the northeast of the country. Here, few public policies guarantee peoples’ basic rights and land distribution is extremely inequitable.
The babaçu nut has many practical and commercial benefits - from natural medicine, food products and roof toppings to cosmetics and cattle fodder. Although the income the women glean from the babaçu nut is tiny - about 60 pence per day - it is often the only monetary income a family has. However, this is under threat. Large-scale commercial farmers - who do not view the babaçu nut as sufficiently profitable - burn forests to clear the area for soya farming or cattle breeding. They have tried to charge women workers or to prevent them from collecting the nuts by erecting barbed wire fences or hiring gunmen.
The babaçu breakers also face discrimination because they are descendants of slaves or indigenous people and because they are women.
The MIQCB has given the nut breakers a voice, to protect their forests from being chopped down and to gain official permission to pick the nuts which would otherwise lie unused - for free.
With the support of War on Want, the MIQCB launched a mass campaign to protect the babaçu in 2007 and was short of obtaining from the Brazilian traditionally conservative Congress to pass a law that would give the nut breakers free access to the palms, and protect the trees from destruction. Since, the MIQCB successfully campaigned for such laws to be adopted in several states in the North of Brazil, including the large State of Maranhão, and has become a key actor within Brazilian civil society. Recently, they participated in the development of one of the few national policies on Agroecology, which was adopted by the Brazilian government in October 2013. War on Want supports the MIQCB to advocate for local government to enforce the existing legislation and build the movement's links within Brazil and with other organisations both at home and internationally.
MONLAR (the Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform), War on Want’s long standing partner in Sri Lanka, emerged from the peasant’s movement opposing neoliberal reforms in the 70s and 80’s, and encompasses a network of farmer’s grassroots organisations. MONLAR gives a voice to rural communities and persistently campaigns for agricultural and land policies that protect them. The movement also help improve the self-reliance of small scale communities through sustainable agriculture, teaching agroecological techniques and seed conservation.
War on Want is working with MONLAR on an ambitious and innovative project funded by the Big Lottery Fund, which takes a holistic approach to poverty alleviation. The project covers the poorest sectors in Sri Lanka in terms of livelihoods (agriculture, fishing and tea estates plantations) and society (engaging all ethnic and religious groups), and mobilise communities to influence decision-making and secure changes in local and national policies to promote fair access to land, preservation of native seeds and ecosystems, and gain government’s support for agroecology as the most economically and environmentally sustainable approach to farming. For the first time, the project will also support people, in particular widows, affected by the 25-year long civil war in the north, in restarting their livelihoods.
Movimento Sem Terra. In Brazil less than 3% of the population owns two-thirds of the land and more than half the farmland lies idle. Four million homeless, landless and jobless peasant farmers are denied a decent living. The Movimento Sem Terra or Landless Workers' Movement works throughout Brazil to ensure that landless people have greater access to land.
The conflict over land, with homeless peasants on one side, and landowners’ armed thugs and the police on the other, has plagued Brazil for decades. The conflict has left over one thousand landless peasants murdered, and landless and rural people face malnutrition, lack of access to clean water, sanitation and basic health or education services, and a lifetime spent in roadside shantytowns of black plastic tents.
The Movimento Sem Terra is one of the strongest social movements in Brazil today, and campaigns against the industrial export agriculture model that excludes peasants and causes inequality and environmental degradation. The MST is a 1.5 million-member movement that organises landless and impoverished farmers to realise their human rights.
Despite heavy repression, it has managed to settle 350,000 families nationwide on unused land since its inception. The MST has also built its own schools under its slogan 'education for every child’. In response to the increasing corporate takeover of agriculture, the MST is now developing sustainable farming methods through agroecology.
War on Want works with the MST to help ensure that farmers can use agroecological techniques, produce and save their own seeds, and call for the Brazilian government to adopt agricultural policies that support such sustainable approaches.
MUFIS was founded and registered in 2000. In the fifteen years since its formation, it has grown its membership to 6,500 informal traders covering the Northern, Central and Southern regions of Malawi. MUFIS organises street vendors, hawkers, marketers, artisans, small veranda (khondes) businesses, informal cross-border traders and smallholder tea farmers. The majority of its members are women.
NGOMA mobilises farmers at grassroots level to lobby and advocate for better agro-policies favourable to small scale producers in Kenya and the wider East-Africa region.
NGOMA is short for Ng’ombe na Mahindi, which refers to dairy and maize in Swahili. Dairy and maize productions dominate the Rift Valley, a vast region in the west of Kenya considered as the food basket of the country. The livelihoods of over one million farmers depend on it, yet most admit they are not able to make a living and feed their family.
As a result of trade liberalisation in the 1990s maize and dairy producers were exposed to free market forces, which forced them into intensive mono-cropping and costly use of standardised, commercial seeds, as well as fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. This contributed to an increase in environmental concerns – poor water management, soil erosion, declining soil fertility and land degradation – exacerbated by extreme weather changes such as droughts. The results are staggering: family farmers are locked into a cycle of poverty and hunger, despite producing the majority of the food needs in Kenya.
NGOMA sprang from a necessity for producers to come together to voice their concerns. Organised in groups at village level, family farmers lobby and advocate for better agricultural policies, favourable to small-scale producers. With the government revealing plans to lift the 2012 ban on GMOs and commercialise them by the end of the year, NGOMA is preparing to campaign against the approval and import of GM seeds and raise awareness about the negative impact of commercial maize seeds, presented to farmers as better than the traditional varieties. Over the past few years NGOMA farmers have been resisting control over their seeds by reverting to using native maize seeds and the results from the experiments they carried out have been astonishing: not only the native varieties mature three month earlier than the imported variety - enabling two harvests in one year - but they are more resistant to local pests and diseases, require less water and are significantly more nutritious and tastier. NGOMA is now mobilising farmers with the support of War on Want to demand control over their seeds and the application of the principles of food sovereignty in Kenya.
The National Garment Workers' Federation (NGWF) has been fighting for the rights of garment workers in Bangladesh since 1984. Based in Dhaka, it is the largest trade union federation in the Bangladeshi garment sector. The NGWF is a founding member of the Bangladesh Garment Workers Unity Council, an umbrella organisation of garment worker federations, and is also a member of the arbitration committee, a body that negotiates labour law and cases of workers’ rights violations through dialogue between trade unions, government and factory owners.
The NGWF is working hard to strengthen the trade union movement across Bangladesh by setting up factory-level unions challenging labour rights abuses within factories. It also promotes workers’ rights through targeted campaigning and by lobbying the government, factory owners and multinational corporations for stronger legislation and its enforcement. NGWF provides legal advice and carries out training sessions for workers around labour rights, particularly on women leadership.
Our allies the NGWF have made incredible leaps forward, and we’re proud to support their achievements. By extending unionisation and pay increases, as well as mandatory inspections, many lives have been saved and improved. Support for the living wage and a post-Rana Plaza safety accord by high street consumers makes a major difference to how the big brands deal with their suppliers. Together we are transforming the garment sector in Bangladesh and the lives of millions.
In Colombia, more than five million people have been forced from their homes by violence and extreme poverty, made refugees in their own country. Rural Colombians have lost huge swathes of land. This humanitarian crisis, and the needs of displaced people, is well known in Colombia and around the world. The Social Research and Action Association (Nomadesc) is a human rights organisation working to fix this massive disadvantage. By bringing these vulnerable groups together, Nomadesc gives these communities a voice. By strengthening the ties between the groups and giving them the tools to defend their human rights, these communities are better able to protect themselves from violence and displacement.
The National Union of Plantation, Agricultural and Allied Workers (NUPAAW) is a leading Zambian farm workers union. The women employed on the flower plantations suffer sexual harassment, appalling discrimination and lower pay than their male colleagues, and many are living with HIV and AIDS. Working to support their organising structures and to train and empower women to speak up, together we have helped build organisational capacity and NUPAAW has gained transformational pay rises of up to 66%, and inclusion in the structures for a national minimum wage. NUPAAW have also supported War on Want’s work in the UK during our period of austerity cuts and issued statements advocating our cause.
Palenque el Congal
Palenque el Congal is an umbrella organisation made up of urban and rural community councils in and around Buenaventura on Colombia’s Pacific region. Buenaventura is the country's most important port with around 70% of Colombia's imports and exports passing through the city. Buenaventura is also Colombia's poorest city. Palenque el Congal work with NOMADESC on the ‘Mision Permanente por la Vida en Buenaventura’ to counter state-sanctioned violence, which has seen numerous killings and disappearances of activists and residents opposing large-scale corporate infrastructure projects in the city.
Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) is a nonprofit organization founded in Hong Kong in June 2005. SACOM originated from a students’ movement devoted to improving the labor conditions of cleaning workers and security guards under the outsourcing policy. The movement attained relative success and created an opportunity for students to engage in local and global labor issues. SACOM aims at bringing concerned students, scholars, labor activists, and consumers together to monitor corporate behavior and to advocate for workers’ rights.
Social Action Nigeria
The work of War on Want partner Social Action centres on education, mobilisation and solidarity for communities working for environmental justice and social change in Nigeria. Social Action works to defend the rights of communities in the Niger Delta who are affected by issues including oil extraction, militarisation and land-grabbing, and to empower people to stand up for their rights and participate in the decisions which affect their lives. It has opened four Community and Paralegal Centres in areas where people are facing serious human rights violation to train community activists and provide rights-based support to communities in the Niger Delta.
Stop the Wall
War on Want supports the work of Stop the Wall - a grassroots campaign movement that empowers Palestinian communities to peacefully oppose the Apartheid Wall. Stop the Wall mobilises popular committees and youth groups in West Bank villages, exposes the destruction and human rights violations caused by the Wall and helps secure compensation for families who have lost their home and their land.
Twice the height of the Berlin Wall, wreathed in wire and blotted with sniper towers, cutting through homes and land, the Apartheid Wall is a brutal physical incarnation of Israel’s Occupation. It is now over 10 years since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the wall must be dismantled. The ICJ also ruled that third states are under an obligation not to recognise, aid or assist the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the Wall. Over many years we have worked with partner Stop the Wall in working to bring the wall down . Join our campaign to ensure the Wall Falls!
UNAC – União Nacional dos Camponeses
In Mozambique 80% of the poor live in rural areas and land rights are hugely important, both for people's livelihoods and cultural identity. However, rural people face major difficulties, in terms of awareness and organisation, to effectively claim and enforce these rights. UNAC – the National Union of Peasant Farmers - is the national farmers' movement founded in 1987 by the farmers themselves. They now comprises more than 86,000 members, organised in 2,200 associations and cooperatives, themselves further structured in 83 district unions, 7 provincial unions and 4 nuclear provincial unions.
Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world, with over 70% of the population living on less than $1 a day and poverty rates as high as 90% in rural areas. The majority of the rural population survives on subsistence farming and land is a crucial asset for people's survival; it also has a very strong social and cultural meaning around which communities construct their local identity and social structure.
Despite having one of the most pro-poor land laws globally, the government has in recent years favoured multi-million private investment in agriculture with the development of large so called agricultural growth corridor, which have resulted in the rights of private investors being elevated above those of rural people. One such a mega-project project is the ProSavanna programme in northern Mozambique, established in partnership with Brazil and Japan. It expands over 14 million hectares of heavily populated land to create the Nacala Corridor, growing soybeans, maize and other commodity crops for export. Four millions people live in the concerned area. The entire process of developing the programme has been characterised by a complete lack of transparency, public consultation or public participation. Needs of local communities, their histories, knowledge, or their own business plans are not considered. Nor is there any appreciation of their local farming and food systems.
UNAC was founded to give small-scale farmers a voice in rural and agricultural policy-making because, as in many other countries, rural people lack the means to hold the government and international actors to account. UNAC has been prominent in voicing the opposition of communities to these mega-projects and successful managed to bring the ProSavanna programme to an halt last year. With the support of War on Want, UNAC is denouncing through national and international debates on rural development in Mozambique, the severe impact that similar multi-million global programmes such as the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, supported by wealthy governments such as the UK, large donors, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and international financial institutions, such as the World Bank, would have on family farmers in terms of land grabbing, destruction of livelihoods and environmental degradation.
Our partners: Workers Empowerment (WE) and Students Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) are at the forefront of exposing the dark side of corporate led globalization. Global tech, clothing and toy companies reap the rewards of excessive working hours, pitiful pay and dangerous conditions. WE raises awareness of what little rights workers are entitled to, and SACOM campaign actively from their base in Hong Kong, targeting companies such as Apple and Marks & Spencers who claim high standards of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). SACOM’s eye catching campaigns have helped highlight the horrors of this hidden world
Al Zaytouna, a Palestinian association of olive oil farming cooperatives and War on Want partner organisation, produces high quality Zaytoun olive oil which is now sold in over 300 stores across the UK, and has already been proven popular with both food critics and customers alike. War on Want has long supported Al Zaytouna's efforts to improve the quality of its product and has helped it increase sales in UK.