Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing
A newsletter covering the highlights and progress of the WIEGO Network in promoting secure informal livelihoods through policy interventions and stronger organizations.
November 2015
Helping Reshape the Global Urban Agenda
Helping to reshape the global urban agenda

In October 2016, UN-Habitat will host Habitat III, an important international summit to "reinvigorate the global commitment to sustainable urbanization." WIEGO has been working to ensure that urban informal workers and their livelihoods are included in the discussions and debates leading up to this important event. WIEGO team members have been selected as experts to serve on three (of the 10) Policy Units that will help draft the New Urban Agenda document. Most recently, we hosted a panel, "Informal Livelihoods and Inclusive Urban Planning," at UN-Habitat's Urban Thinkers Campus India, part of a series of programmes that are helping to shape the Habitat III agenda.

The panel included representatives from street vending, waste picking, and home-based work and discussed examples of how informal workers can be incorporated into urban policymaking and planning.

Watch video interviews of panel participants:
Namrata Bali,
Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA)

Arbind Singh,
National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI)


Also In This Issue

WIEGO is also a co-chair, with Shack/Slum Dwellers International, of the Grassroots Partner Constituency of the World Urban Campaign's General Assembly of Partners (GAP). Most recently, WIEGO supported Gloria Solorzano Espinoza's participation at a meeting of the Global Assembly of Partners, which took place on 2 October in New York City. Gloria, a street vendor leader from the National Self-Employed Workers' Network (RENATTA, its Spanish acronym) in Peru, was part of the official GAP discussions. Gloria said it was a great opportunity to represent informal workers in a platform with the potential to create important alliances and generate greater visibility for all the sectors of the informal economy.

In addition to bringing urban informal workers and their livelihoods into the Habitat III agenda, WIEGO also participated in the campaigns for the Urban Sustainable Development Goal (SDG # 11). The new SDGs were officially adopted by world leaders at a UN summit in September and include two new stand-alone goals that are of particular significance to the urban working poor:
  • Goal 8 calls for inclusive and sustainable economic growth as well as full and productive employment and decent work for all.
  • Goal 11 calls for making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

Read more about how WIEGO is reshaping urban policy and planning to include informal workers.

Promoting Negotiations Between Informal Workers and Municipalities
Market Vendor in South Africa

StreetNet, supported by WIEGO's Director of Organization and Representation Programme, Chris Bonner, organized a mass meeting of informal workers from five sectors (street vendors, home-based workers, taxi workers, fishermen, and waste pickers) in eThekwini (Durban), South Africa. This followed a recommendation by the International Labour Organization (ILO) that the current consultation forum between street traders and the municipality should be restructured with the full participation of the vendors and that new elections should be held. Participants agreed that they would demand that the new structure includes all the sectors, and that elections for representatives should be held by each sector. In the future, this new forum could become an important vehicle for regular, proper negotiations between workers in the informal economy and the eThekwini municipality in order to tackle the many unresolved problems confronting informal workers on a daily basis.


In our existing Focal Cities, Accra, Ghana, and Lima, Peru, WIEGO has built platforms for on-going negotiations between informal workers and municipalities and has trained informal worker leaders in effective negotiating and advocacy skills. At a Focal City Planning Workshop (see below), the WIEGO Team decided to support similar negotiating efforts in a new set of Focal Cities.

Celebrating Home-Based Workers and C177
Home-Based Worker, India

Next year, 2016, will mark 20 years since the adoption of the Home Work Convention (C177). On Home-Based Workers Day, 20 October of this year, we began a yearlong celebration of this important anniversary by mounting a campaign for governments to ratify the Convention and for recognition of the economic contributions made by home-based workers. (See which countries have ratified the Convention.) Planning for the year's activities began in September in Istanbul, where the WIEGO global home-based worker team and our HomeNet partners met to map the way forward for supporting the home-based workers' movement, building on Convention 177 and on the Delhi Declaration and Action Plan, which were inaugurated during the Global Convening of Home-Based Workers in New Delhi, India, in February 2015.

Visit the WIEGO Blog to read a photo essay about home-based workers from Sunder Nagari slum in Delhi.
Empowering Women Workers through Capacity Building
WIEGO continues to focus on building the capacities of informal workers.
In July and August, WIEGO's Home-based Worker Coordinator for Latin America, Laura Morillo, met with a union organizing home-based workers in Montevideo and similarly focused unions and MBOs in Santiago to take forward organizing and policy work to engage with government on changes to the law on homeworkers and on statistics.

In September, HomeNet Eastern Europe and WIEGO were partners in a regional conference, "Social Protection of Home-based Workers in the Kyrgyz Republic." The meeting was convened by the Mountain Societies Development Support Programme (MSDSP KG), an initiative of the Aga Khan Foundation. The focus was to initiate a process towards including home-based workers in the labour laws framework of Kyrgyzstan by trying to establish a national platform that would take up the issue of home-based workers.

Drawing on the practical needs expressed by women waste pickers who participated in the Gender & Waste educational workshops, WIEGO partnered with the International Coach Federation (ICF) to develop an initiative to improve the communication skills of women waste pickers. During the Gender & Waste Project workshops, many women expressed their desire to improve these skills as they considered them to be essential to positively impacting their roles within the workplace. In May, the ICF held a voluntary, three-hour coaching workshop for 70 women waste pickers from Minas Gerais, Brazil. Valdete Roza, a waste picker leader, says the tools used by her coach have helped her in her work, especially in delegating responsibilities. "I'm learning to understand myself by talking to another person and by analyzing my own attitudes in order to improve the way I deal with others," she commented.

Watch a video discussing the communication skills training program for waste pickers:
Ivaneide Souza on Coaching

Facilitating Colombian Waste Pickers Meeting and Mayoral Meet
ANR delegates

In early September, Federico Parra, WIEGO's Regional Coordinator for Waste Pickers in Latin America, prepared and facilitated the National Association of Recyclers planning meeting in Bogota with over 45 leaders from different municipalities around Colombia. Over the course of three days, they reviewed the latest rules governing recycling, shared waste pickers' status of inclusion and recognition in their municipalities, and discussed the implications of formalization, which were collected and sent to the ministry.

The group of over 400 recycler assistants also had the opportunity to hear from three of Bogota's six mayoral candidates, each of whom had the opportunity to discuss how they will continue the steps already achieved by the recyclers in Bogota, including compensation, and how they will implement the rest of the rules governing recycling, including recognition of recyclers.
Improving Statistics on Informal Employment
Joann Vanek, Director of WIEGO's Statistics Programme, helped organize and run a regional training course on Statistics on Informality in July at the Statistical Institute for Asia and the Pacific (SIAP) in Chiba, Japan. The course aimed to promote and improve the collection of data and statistics on informal employment and employment in the informal sector as an integral part of the national labour force statistics in Asia and the Pacific. We helped organize the course with SIAP, a regional institution of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP), in collaboration with the Statistics Division of ESCAP, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Government of Japan (MIC). Twenty-two statisticians and labour ministry officials participated from 13 Asian countries: Bhutan, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Pakistan, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

WIEGO continues to work towards the revision of the International Classification of Status in Employment-93 (ICSE), one of the three major international classifications in labour statistics. As members of the ILO Working Group for this revision, Francoise Carré and Joann Vanek are focusing on the improved identification of categories of informal workers in the classification, specifically homeworkers, dependent contractors, domestic workers, and casual workers/casual day labourers.
Just Recycling: Changing Minds About Waste Pickers
WIEGO and its waste picker team and allies have created a video that showcases the valuable, wide-ranging contributions made by those who sort through what others throw away. "Just Recycling: The Social, Economic and Environmental Benefits of Working with Waste Pickers" details some approaches taken in Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, and India. It also highlights key factors to consider when developing local approaches.

Watch the video:
Just Recycling: Changing Minds About Waste Pickers
Just Recycling: Changing Minds About Waste Pickers
Celebrating 30th Anniversary of UNU Wider
Marty Chen, WIEGO's International Coordinator, and Francie Lund, Director of WIEGO's Social Protection Programme, were invited to speak and also to organize a panel on informal employment at the UNU WIDER 30th Anniversary Conference on the Future of Development Economics in Helsinki, Finland, in September. Francie spoke on a panel on multi-disciplinary research and chaired the WIEGO panel on the informal economy. Marty Chen, WIEGO board member Ravi Kanbur, and WIEGO member Imraan Valodia spoke on the panel. Marty was also asked to write a paper on the evolution of thinking on the informal economy over the past three decades for the UNU WIDER conference volume.

Marty made interventions from the floor during two plenary sessions, calling for greater attention to employment in general, and informal employment in particular, in development economics. Both Marty and Francie were interviewed by the media staff of UNU WIDER.

Watch videos of presentations made at the conference by Marty Chen, Ravi Kanbur, Francie Lund, and Imraan Valodia.
Launching New Law and Informality Programme
For several years, with partners in four countries (Ghana, India, Peru, and Thailand), WIEGO has undertaken a project on Law and Informality designed to document and analyze which laws impact, and how they impact, different groups of informal workers and to document and support the legal struggles that organizations of informal workers are engaged in. Having found that existing laws tend to impact informal workers and their livelihoods in punitive ways, and that informal workers and their organizations need support in their on-going struggles for protective laws and regulations, we decided to transform the project into a core programme of WIEGO. We are pleased to announce that we recently recruited three human rights and labour lawyers to lead the new Law and Informality Programme: Marlese von Broembsen (from South Africa) will be the Programme Director (pictured above); Pamhidzai Banu (from Zimbabwe) will be the Africa Coordinator; and Tania Espinosa (from Mexico) will be the Latin America Coordinator.

Read more about the Law and Informality Programme.
Planning for WIEGO's Future
In early September, the WIEGO team and Board members met for a series of meetings in Manchester, England, that started with a three-day Focal Cities planning meeting, followed by the annual Team Retreat, and culminating in a Board meeting. WIEGO team members, working in relation to specific cities, met first to discuss the possibility of an expanded strategy for Focal Cities. The group agreed that the definition of a WIEGO Focal City was "the intentional intensification of WIEGO activities at the city level, in support of MBOs and underpinned by our Theory of Change." These would also be locations where WIEGO has work involving a minimum of one sector, one local partner, as well as a WIEGO person based there and the resources to complete the necessary work. The group also discussed the core methods of the work, including negotiating platforms and negotiating capacity building, as well as the values and operating principles for the work in order to ensure that MBOs are leading the process and women's leadership is a priority.


Discussions about specific cities are continuing but will include four cities per region. In the coming year, WIEGO will inventory and further document the methods that have been used, as well as begin conversations with local partners on new Focal Cities work and seek the necessary funding.

WIEGO Team photo at annual meeting

The Team Retreat offered the opportunity for the WIEGO team from around the world to convene and share activities and experiences and revisit the 2014-2018 strategic plans that are guiding our core programme areas. We also welcomed many new team members this year and celebrated two of our programme directors, Francie Lund and Chris Bonner, who will be retiring at the end of the fiscal year.


Finally, the Board met for two days and welcomed Vicky Kanyoka, newly co-opted to the WIEGO Board from the Africa regional office of the International Domestic Workers' Federation. The Board considered updates from each of the WIEGO Programmes, the Communications Team, and the International Coordinator, as well as reports from its Management and Finance Committees. The audited accounts for the year ended 31 March 2015 were adopted, and detailed succession plans were updated and discussed, including the search process for candidates for the Programme Director roles for the Organization and Representation and Social Protection Programmes.
Latest from the WIEGO Blog
Photo Essay Part I: Home as a Place of Work, Shalini Sinha, 16 October.
In the Developing World, Waste Can Be a Vital Resource, Sonia Dias, 22 September (cross posted from the original post found on the Huffington Post,17 September).
Wither the "Labor" in Labor Day?, Françoise Carré, 4 September.
New WIEGO Publications Available Online
Budlender, D. 2015. Budgeting and the Informal Economy in Accra, Ghana. WIEGO Budget Brief No. 5.
Budlender, D. 2015. Budgeting and the Informal Economy in Durban, South Africa. WIEGO Budget Brief No. 6.
Vanek, Joann, Martha Alter Chen, Francoise Carré, James Heintz and Ralf Hussmans. 2014 (updated). Statistics on the Informal Economy: Definitions, Regional Estimates & Challenges. WIEGO Working Paper (Statistics) No. 2.

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