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.
August 2016
covering the period March - June 2016
Helping to Shape a Global Agenda for Women's Economic Empowerment

Attendees at UN Meeting
Renana Jhabvala and Jenna Harvey of WIEGO pictured with UN HLP members and deputies and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at inaugural meeting (Photo: UN Women)


WIEGO is one of two civil society organizations that are represented on the first-ever UN Secretary General's High-Level Panel for Women's Economic Empowerment (UN HLP).  The panel brings together leaders from civil society, and the private and public sectors to define an actionable agenda for improving economic outcomes for women in alignment with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. 


The UN HLP's inaugural meeting took place during the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations on March 15, 2016. The meeting kicked off a year-long process of research, consultations and dialogue with a broad set of stakeholders around the world. Through this process, the panel aims to produce two reports for the UN Secretary-General. The first report will highlight positive practices and define priorities for a women's economic empowerment agenda, and will be presented during the UN General Assembly in September. The second report will be presented in March of 2017 and will primarily focus on implementation.


Renana Jhabvala, chair of the WIEGO board, is representing WIEGO on the panel. She has provided expertise on women in the informal economy that is grounded in her extensive experience with WIEGO and as National Coordinator of the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA).  Marty Chen, International Coordinator of WIEGO, also represents WIEGO in the role of deputy.  WIEGO Writer and Research Assistant Jenna Harvey will provide support to Renana and Marty throughout the course of the panel.


In This Issue

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In addition to participating in panel meetings and consultations, WIEGO is contributing to the panel's work through the submission of policy briefs in each of the issue areas identified as key to women's economic empowerment - pay and work conditions, child care, legal barriers, financial and digital inclusion and women-owned enterprises. WIEGO is also writing the background paper on promoting opportunities for women informal workers.


The second panel meeting was held in San Jose, Costa Rica in July. This meeting was preceded by two additional events: a meeting on the ratification of C189 in Latin America and a Latin America regional consultation. WIEGO was represented at these events by a delegation made up of Project Officer Edith Anampa, Law Programme Coordinator for Latin America Tania Espinosa and environmental and waste picker activist Nohra Padilla. Regional Coordinator of IDWF Marcelina Bautista and Ruth Moreno of FESINTRACAP, Chile's IDWF affiliate, also attended these meetings, as well as Maria del Carmen Cruz from the Costa Rica IDWF affiliate, ASTRODOMES. Kattia Rojas from the local affiliate of StreetNet also participated in the regional consultation.


For more information visit WIEGO's HLP campaign page.

WIEGO's Road to Habitat III
WIEGO Delegates Collaborater During PrepCom2
WIEGO delegates confer at PrepCom2 in Nairobi, Kenya.

WIEGO continues to play an active role in the process leading up to the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (known as Habitat III), which is to be held in Quito, Ecuador in October. During the spring of 2016, WIEGO team members and partners participated in a range of thematic and regional meetings across the globe (detailed in "WIEGO's presence in the world" section below), to advocate for the inclusion of informal workers and their livelihoods into the New Urban Agenda.


In addition, WIEGO has continued its work with the World Urban Campaign (WUC) as lead partner member and as a co-chair of the Communication Subcommittee. This has involved working together with the WUC Secretariat on communications strategies for implementation before and during the Third Preparatory Committee (known as PrepCom3) in Surabaya, Indonesia.  Also, as co-chair of the Grassroots Partners Constituency Group of the General Assembly of Partners (GAP) WIEGO contributed to Partnerships for the New Urban Agenda, the GAP advisory document proposing stakeholder involvement in the preparation, crafting, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the New Urban Agenda.


On May 6th, the first Zero Draft of the New Urban Agenda was released, which contains multiple references to informal workers, informal livelihoods, and the informal economy. WIEGO issued a detailed response to this draft. WIEGO is also working with membership-based organizations of the urban working poor to prepare an Informal Workers' Zero Draft-a platform of priorities that were compiled/identified by urban informal workers themselves. The platform will be launched in Quito.


On June 18th, UN member states issued the first revised version of the Zero Draft. Since then, WIEGO has continued to provide feedback on the Draft through the GAP.


Members of WIEGO's network have been or will be active in:

  • PrepCom 3: A delegation of 12 worker leaders and 9 WIEGO team members participated in PrepCom 3 (held in Surabaya, Indonesia July 25-27). Activities included a capacity building workshop for informal worker leaders preceding the meeting and participation in one or more side events. The MBO platform, which was  discussed during the capacity building workshop, consolidated inputs from worker-led processes over the past several years into cross-cutting demands on labor rights, collective bargaining and representation, policy environment, social protection and safety at work. The platform also includes sector-specific demands for home-based workers, street vendors, and waste pickers.
  • Habitat III Meeting: A delegation of 13 worker leaders and 12 WIEGO team members will participate in the Habitat III Meeting (Quito, Ecuador October 17-20).

To learn more about the participation of grassroots leaders and informal workers belonging to WIEGO's network in the Habitat III process, read the blog post, Adding Informal Workers' Voices to the New Urban Agenda by Victoria Okoye, 20 May 2016.


For more information visit WIEGO's Habitat III event page.

WIEGO Delegation Presents Demands at ILC 2016

WIEGO Delegates at the International Labour Conference
Members of WIEGO delegation at ILC 2016.


From May 30 to June 10, a delegation of homeworkers and organizers from Africa, Latin America, South Asia and South East Asia, supported by WIEGO team members, participated in the general discussion on decent work in global supply chains at the 2016 ILO International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva, Switzerland. The platform of demands for homeworkers in global supply chains presented at the conference was developed through a collaborative process among members of the WIEGO network. Specifically, in March 2016 affiliates of HomeNet South Asia and HomeNet South East Asia participated in formulating the demands for the final platform, which was then circulated to home-based worker and support groups in Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe. The platform sets out the key issues and challenges faced by homeworkers, and outlines their demands for improved working conditions, rights and decent work. .  


The WIEGO delegation's primary objective was to ensure that homeworkers are recognized as part of global supply chains.  WIEGO and SEWA's interventions were successful - the official conclusions that emerged from the discussions recognize homeworkers (i.e., industrial outworkers who produce goods from their own homes) as part of global supply chains. The conclusions also acknowledge the ILO Convention on Home Work (C177) as one of the instruments on which the ILO should base its programme of action to address decent work in global supply chains.


Zehra Khan Speaks on Homeworker Issues During the Plenary Session
Zehra Khan speaks on behalf of the WIEGO Network
during the ILC's plenary session


To commemorate the anniversary of C177, the ILO Workers' Group hosted a special event, "Commemorating 20 Years of the ILO Convention on Home Work (C177)"  on June 7. Event participants reflected on the negotiation process towards a Convention 20 years ago, progress to date in terms of country ratification and legislation to protect homeworkers and the Convention's continued relevance, particularly as homework is increasingly a feature of the "digital economy." The event included a discussion on the need to recognize the prevalence of home work and the importance of C177 in discussions about the future of work. WIEGO and partners have launched a global campaign to raise awareness of homeworkers and the need for more countries to ratify C177 (only ten countries have ratified the convention to date).


Read about the progress homeworkers have made since the adoption of C177 in 1996 and the challenges homeworkers still face in 2016 through:

For more information visit WIEGO's ILC 2016 event page.

WIEGO's Child Care Initiative
Since its launch in 2014, WIEGO's Child Care Initiative has produced several background papers, including a comprehensive literature review on the links between child care provision and women's incomes.  Focus group discussions conducted by membership-based organizations (MBOs) of informal workers in Brazil, Ghana, India, South Africa and Thailand reveal that women informal workers are faced with limited options when affordable child care services are not available. The experiences of informal workers vary across sectors - street vendors may have to take their children with them to sell in crowded urban areas, while home-based workers struggle to care for their children and work at the same time.  Without quality child care services, women informal workers are less productive, which results in lower earnings.
In June 2015, a strategic workshop was convened in Durban, South Africa with MBOs of informal workers and WIEGO partners to determine the future of the initiative. The participants decided develop an international advocacy strategy alongside national advocacy and coalition building with trade unions, MBOs of informal workers, women's rights and child rights organizations. International and national advocacy strategies will frame child care as a core component of social protection for all workers.  A report detailing the findings of the focus group discussions with informal workers on access to child care services will be available ahead of the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID) Forum in September 2016 where WIEGO will present the initiative with trade union federations and women's rights organizations.
Domestic Workers Benefits Campaign Launch in Lima, Peru

Domestic Worker Campaign Material
Material from the campaign: "hand in hand to be able to work, take care of our children and homes." 


Since 2014, WIEGO Project Officer Edith Anampa has sustained a "mesa," or board, which brings together government institutions and the two National Federations of Domestic Workers to pilot a campaign that aims to increase the number of Peruvian domestic workers who have effective access health insurance, and to a pension savings program. These are rights that are covered under the national Domestic Workers Law in Peru, but fewer than 10 per cent of eligible workers' employers comply. The board brings together officials from various public agencies (including the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Women's Affairs), with representatives from the two federations, in addition to other NGOs.  


The two month Domestic Workers Benefits Campaign was launched in July 2016. The campaign will target a district of Lima that has 35,000 households (San Borja), but where only 1000 domestic workers enjoy health insurance coverage. The initiative uses humor, and highlights the positive aspects of employers and workers as partners in caring for families and homes. It encourages compliance by appealing to values of equality and fairness for workers rather than in law enforcement terms, and advertises rewards for compliance rather than threating non-compliance with sanctions, such as fines.  Increases in the number of domestic workers able to access health insurance and pensions will be measured after the campaign. However, as WIEGO Project Office Edith Anampa explains, "what matters most with this campaign is not the increase itself, but the fact that several government offices have worked together on this.  The effort illustrates that it is not difficult to promote enforcement of existing law to grant social benefits to all domestic workers. This is a step towards the government launching a national campaign to promote law enforcement for this vulnerable population."

Informal Worker Leaders: Proposals to Political Parties Contending for Presidency in Peru

Informal Worker Delegation Gathers in Peru On May 27, a delegation of informal worker leaders met with the technical teams of the two parties involved in Peru's presidential election. The meeting took place two days before the last presidential debate that highlighted various issues, including economic growth and employment. The delegation's objective was to discuss the challenges that they face and to present, with a unified collective voice, their proposal for a formalization process that would take into account their realities and priorities.


The delegations' proposal (in Spanish), was structured around three main topics (institutional and social dialogue, social protection, and access to financing and promotion of productivity). The proposal sought recognition of informal workers' contributions while proposing measures that build on their existing work.

Among other things, they demanded:

  • inclusion in decision-making processes and the establishment of adequate legal and regulatory frameworks;
  • access to social protection. This should be guaranteed through reforms to the health system that take into account their needs and realities;
  • establishment of pension schemes where both the State and the workers can make contributions;
  • development of mechanisms to enhance their productivity and economic performance.

The proposal document was drafted through a collective and participatory process with organizations of domestic workers, market porters, market vendors, newspaper vendors, street vendors, and waste pickers. The process was launched in November 2015 during the National Meeting of Informal Workers in Peru. After the National Meeting, WIEGO and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) facilitated a series of six working sessions and a discussion with experts that resulted in the drafting of the proposal.


During two encounters with the delegation of informal worker leaders, both political parties expressed interest in addressing some of the issues presented in the proposal. Specifically, on May 31, Fuerza Popular candidate Elmer Cuba signed a written statement of commitment to work on areas of particular consensus.The meeting garnered significant media coverage in Peru. Links to these resources and more information can be found on the WIEGO website.

New Video on Organizing in the Informal Economy

The newly created video, "Organizing for Change: Workers in the Informal Economy" (available in English, French and Spanish) provides insight into the contributions of informal workers as well as the many hurdles they face to secure their livelihoods. It features the benefits of organizing with case studies from Ghana, India and Thailand.


The French version of the video was presented at the Colloque sur l'économie informelle (Informal Economy Symposium) that took place in Montreal, Canada as part of ACFAS´s (Association Francophone Pour Le Savoir) annual meeting/congress on May 12.

WIEGO video on organizing in the informal economy

 Watch video: Organizing for Change: Workers in the Informal Economy 

Data Visualization Dashboard Launch

During 2015 and 2016, WIEGO has been working on a project to transform years of accumulated resources on the informal economy into a more accessible format for users via an interactive online dashboard. The dashboard will feature an interactive map of the world that will allow visitors to access WIEGO's Publications and Resources, a comprehensive Statistics Database, and to view WIEGO's Presence by country, or region, around the world. The dashboard is designed to make data and resources on the informal economy more accessible to policy-makers, academics, development practitioners and informal worker organizations. Look for the launch of the data visualization dashboard in September 2016 via the WIEGO homepage.

Additions to the WIEGO Team

This April to June, WIEGO welcomed four new team members: Rachel Moussié, Ana Carolina Ogando, Jenna Harvey and Cyrus Afshar. Rachel, who has been working on WIEGO's child care initiative, has joined the Social Protection Programme Team. Ana Carolina Ogando, who has worked on several research projects with WIEGO, will be working as Research Associate on the Urban Policies Programme Team. Jenna, who has worked as a student intern at the WIEGO Secretariat, has joined the Communications Team as Writer and Research Assistant.  Cyrus joins the Communications Team as Communications Consultant.



WIEGO's Presence in the World

March 2016

  • Tania Espinosa (Latin America Coordinator, WIEGO Law Programme) participated in the Thematic Meeting on Financing Urban Development in Mexico City, Mexico that forms part of the Habitat III process (March 9-11).
  • Ana Carolina Ogando (Research Associate, WIEGO), and Olga Abizaid (Programme Support Officer, WIEGO), made a presentation on WIEGO and WIEGO's work on gender in the context of the National Assembly of Ecuador's National Network of Recyclers (RENAREC) in Quito, Ecuador (March 11).
  • Renana Jhabvala (National Coordinator of SEWA, WIEGO board chair) and Jenna Harvey (Writer and Research Assistant, WIEGO) attended the inaugural meeting of the HLP in New York (March 15).
  • WIEGO hosted a public dialogue on "Inclusive Cities and the Urban Working Poor" in New Delhi, India in conjunction with meetings of the WIEGO Board and Team (March 15).
  • Victoria Okoye (Urban Advocacy Specialist, WIEGO) and Pilar Balbuena (Informal Economy Media Specialist, WIEGO) supported the participation of street vendor leader Gloria Solorzano from Lima, Peru in the Habitat III Regional Meeting for Europe held in Prague (March 15-19).
  • WIEGO, together with HomeNet South Asia, hosted a regional conference of home-based workers and their organizations to celebrate the 20th. anniversary of Convention 177 in Ahmedabad, India (March 22).
  • Marty Chen (International Coordinator, WIEGO) was a panel speaker at a seminar on Asian Megacities co-hosted by the Museum of Fine Arts and Harvard University in Boston, USA (March 24).

April 2016

  • Marty Chen and Mike Bird (Operations Director, WIEGO) led a discussion on "Informal Employment, Decent Work and Social Dialogue" at the Swedish International Development Assistance (Sida) in Stockholm, Sweden (April 4).
  • Alison Brown (Advisor to WIEGO) and Victoria Okoye participated in the Habitat III Thematic Meeting on Public Spaces (Barcelona, Spain). Alison Brown's plenary presentation "Public Space and Livelihoods: View from the Pavement" demonstrated the contributions and vibrancy that street vendors bring to public spaces around the world (April 4-5).
  • Marty Chen and Mike Bird participated in the first General Assembly of Cities Alliance members in Brussels, Belgium (April 5-6).
  • WIEGO team members Victoria Okoye, Jane Barrett (Director, WIEGO's Organization & Representation Programme), and Vanessa Pillay (Organization & Representation Programme Officer, WIEGO), along with South African Waste Pickers Association member Catherine Rapetswa participated in the Habitat III Thematic Meetings on Informal Settlements (Pretoria, South Africa, April 7-8).
  • In a joint side event to the Habitat III Thematic Meetings on Informal Settlements (organized by WIEGO with Slum/Shack Dwellers International and the Huairou Commission) linking issues of informal settlements, housing and livelihoods, Catherine shared her experience living in an informal settlement and its practical impacts on her livelihood as a waste picker. In the same event, Victoria shared IEMS data linking informal settlements and livelihoods. On the plenary panel "Financing informal settlement/slum upgrading contributing to sustainable livelihoods and inclusive economic growth," Victoria shared the experience and lessons from Mahila Housing Trust's Parivartan slum upgrading program in Ahmedabad, India (April 7-8).
  • Sonia Dias (Waste Pickers Sector Specialist, WIEGO) and Tania Espinosa participated in the Habitat III Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Meeting (Toluca, Mexico). Sonia spoke on the plenary session "Gender and Safe Cities for Women: Urban Interventions for the Prevention of Violence Dialogue"(April 18-20).
  • Sally Roever (Director, WIEGO's Urban Policies Programme) and Alison Brown participated in the Habitat III Open-Ended Informal Consultative Meetings in New York City, USA. Sally and Alison represented their Policy Unit on panels relating to "Right to the City and Cities for All" and Housing (April 26).
  • Tania Espinosa participated in the panel "Right to the City" in the Second International Congress of More Inclusive Cities (Ciudades + inclusivas) in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.
  • WIEGO Waste Pickers Sector Advisor Lucia Fernandez together with grassroots leaders from SDI Latin America and MNCR, represented Cities Alliance at an event organized by Ministry of Housing and Urbanism in Chile to showcase best integration practices from slum dwellers (April 26-28).

May 2016

  • Marty Chen participated in a UN ESCAP Inter-Agency Expert Group meeting on "Full Employment and Decent Work for All" in Bangkok, Thailand (May 4-5).
  • Gisèle Yasmeen (Director, WIEGO Social Protection Programme) presented the main findings of her policy brief for WIEGO with Narumol Nirathron of Thammasat University on street vendors in Bangkok during the Colloque sur l'économie informelle (Informal Economy Symposium) in Montreal, Canada. Olga Abizaid participated as Communications Officer (May 12).
  • Marty Chen and Marlese von Broembsen (Director, WIEGO Law Programme) met with the World Bank Business and Law Group and, together with Sally Roever, attended a UN HLP Round Table on Women-Owned Businesses co-organized by the International Development Research Council (IDRC), WeConnect and the Urban Institute (May 16-17).
  • Marty Chen and Sally Roever participated in a Clinton Global Initiative meeting on "Planning for Prosperity:  A Sustainable Future for African Cities" in Washington, DC (May 17).
  • Tania Espinosa participated in the panel discussion on the defense of waste pickers rights during the Waste Pickers and the Right to Work Conference in Belo Horizonte, Brazil (May 24).
  • Marty Chen and Mike Bird participated in a meeting of the Cities Alliance Joint Work Programme on Equitable Economic Growth in London, UK (May 26).

June 2016:

  • Olga Abizaid and Sofia Trevino (Programme Support Manager, WIEGO) represented WIEGO in the Ottawa Consultation of the UN HLP (June 6).
  • Marty Chen presented on "Informal Workers and Universal Health" to a group of 15 China Medical Board Equity Fellows from Asia in Cambridge, USA (June 9).
  • Marty Chen presented on "Women's Own Account Enterprises: Reducing Constraints and Risks, Enhancing Productivity" at a seminar at the International Development Research Council in Ottawa, Canada (June 21).
  • Marty Chen and Jenna Harvey represented WIEGO at the deputies meeting of the UN HLP in New York City, USA (June 29).
  • Mike Bird gave key-note address on "Understanding the Real Economy of Cities" at an urban poverty forum of Oxfam affiliates, hosted by Oxfam Hong Kong (June 28-30).
New Publications and Resources
Dias, Sonia Maria and Ana Carolina Ogando. 2015. Rethinking Gender and Waste: Exploratory Findings from Participatory Action Research in Brazil in Work Organisation, Labour & Globalisation Volume 9, Number 2, Winter 2015.
Anyidoho, Nana Akua and William F. Steel. 2016 Perceptions of Costs and Benefits of Informal-Formal Linkages: Market and Street Vendors in Accra, Ghana WIEGO Working Paper No. 35. 
Dias, Sonia Maria and Ana Carolina Ogando. 2016 From Theory to Action: Gender and Waste Recycling: A Toolkit for Teachers, Researchers and Practitioners and supporting materials (available in English, Spanish and Portuguese).
Latest from the WIEGO Blog:
Visibility Matters: New Publications Bridge Gender and Waste Issues by Sonia Dias and Ana Carolina Ogando, March 3, 2016.
Domestic Workers are (Not) "Like Family" by Tania Espinosa Sanchez,  June 16, 2016.
Gender-Just Cities and the New Urban Agenda by Ana Carolina Ogando,  June 17, 2016.

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