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.
Covering the period January - May 2017
WIEGO Kicks off 20th Anniversary Celebrations
WIEGO Celebrates 20 years

Twenty years ago, from April 15-18, 1997, a group of ten specialists on the informal economy - labour organizers, researchers, statisticians and development practitioners - met to plan a collaborative project in support of women workers in the informal economy. The goals of the project were to promote stronger organizations of informal workers; improved statistics and research on the informal economy; and supportive policies for the working poor, especially women, in the informal economy. The project was named "Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing" (or WIEGO, for short) to convey that women informal workers are integrated into the global economy and are organizing.  Many of the key features of WIEGO today were part of our 1997 plan - notably WIEGO's goals, three constituencies and membership structure. Since its founding, the WIEGO project has transformed into a global network of networks with more than 150 affiliates in over 80 countries.

To kick off our 20th anniversary celebrations, we created a visual, online timeline that traces WIEGO's history through some of our major milestones over the past 20 years (available in English, Spanish and French). We invite you to explore the timeline, and to contribute your own stories or memories with WIEGO by sending your content (photos, videos, messages, audio recordings etc.) to twenty@wiego.org, or by posting on our Facebook page or Twitter using the hashtag #WIEGO20!


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The launch of the timeline marks the beginning of what will be a year-long celebration of the WIEGO Network - a celebration of our members, board, team, founders and partners. Over the course of the year, we will be launching new online features including a page dedicated to our founders, good practice examples from our network, informal economy scholars and more. Please continue to visit our website - www.wiego.org - to explore these features, which will be posted throughout the year.
WIEGO Looks to the Future at Strategic Planning Retreat

WIEGO team members in Bellagio, Italy

We held our 20th anniversary strategic planning retreat at the Rockefeller Foundation Center in Bellagio, Italy from April 24-28, 2017. With three external resource persons from the Indian Institute of Human Settlements, International Labour Organization and World Bank, we explored the future of work and of cities, and the opportunities and threats for informal workers and WIEGO associated with these trends. We reaffirmed our vision for informal workers and their organizations, as well as for our core programmes. We discussed several strategic challenges facing WIEGO, such as whether to work with migrant workers and how to make strategic choices. We also discussed our plans for working with organizations of informal workers to push for implementation of key provisions in the Sustainable Development Goals, ILO Recommendation 204 on formalizing the informal economy, and the New Urban Agenda. The WIEGO Board and Team left Bellagio with renewed commitment to informal workers, to their organizations, and to our vision and model of change - namely to empower informal workers to demand an enabling environment and to secure their livelihoods by increasing their Voice, Visibility and Validity. 

Two New Focal Cities Launch
Focal Cities is the term used to designate those cities where WIEGO has 1-2 team members who work with organizations of informal workers to build their capacity to engage with municipal authorities and other actors on issues relating to their livelihoods. As of 2016, WIEGO had four Focal Cities:  Accra, Ghana; Bangkok, Thailand; Delhi, India; and Lima, Peru. In February 2017, WIEGO launched two new Focal City initiatives - in Mexico City, Mexico and in Dakar, Senegal.

In Mexico City, the work will be led by Tania Espinosa, who joined WIEGO in 2015 as Law Programme Coordinator for Latin America. Tania was born and raised in Mexico City, has expertise in the area of waste pickers and human rights, and currently serves as a board member on the Mexico City Human Rights Commission.

The Focal Cities Coordinator for Dakar, Senegal is Adama Soumaré, an activist who has worked with both waste pickers and street vendors for over 25 years in Senegal. Adama is experienced in capacity-building and training, facilitation and mediation, as well action-research, advocacy and project management.

WIEGO welcomes Tania and Adama!
Domestic Workers Share Experiences at Regional Exchange
Domestic Workers
Exchange participants posing with gloves from CACEH's campaign for domestic worker rights: "Put on your Gloves for Domestic Workers"

The Regional Exchange of Domestic Workers' Experiences: Convention 189 and Social Security, was held in Mexico City, Mexico from February 18-19, 2017. The workshop was jointly organized by WIEGO, the Institute of Leadership Simon de Beauvoir, local domestic worker organization Center of Support and Training for Domestic Workers (Spanish acronym CACEH), and the National Domestic Worker Trade Union (Spanish acronym SINACTRAHO). Over 45 domestic workers from Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Uruguay met to share experiences and discuss advocacy strategies around social security legislation and ratification of ILO Convention 189 on Domestic Workers ( C189). During the discussions, workers identified two key common challenges: gaps and discrimination in legal and social security frameworks that leave domestic workers lacking protections. The meeting also provided an opportunity for domestic workers from across Latin America to share legislative advances in their respective countries as a way to support Mexican domestic workers in strategizing how to advance their own struggle for rights and protections.

During the meeting, participants worked together to develop a political platform (also in Spanish) outlining a set of demands for the Mexican government, including: access to health services, maternity leave, pensions, improved working conditions, a minimum wage, a written contract and others. The platform framed these demands within the international standards outlined by C189, and also called for ratification of C189 by Mexico. The platform was officially presented in the Senate of the Republic on March 29, 2017 - on the eve of Mexico's Domestic Workers' Day.

WIEGO hopes to continue to support Mexican domestic workers through a second phase of work that would involve the creation of a "training for trainers" course on advocacy and social security, in collaboration with the Simone de Beauvoir Leadership Institute, CACEH and SINACTRAHO. The aim of the initiative would be to promote increased awareness about legal rights at a time when the domestic worker movement is gaining strength in Mexico.

To learn more about the regional exchange and the creation of the platform read Strategies for Addressing Social and Legal Barriers for Mexican Domestic Workers by Tania Espinosa on the WIEGO blog (Mar 28, 2017).
UN HLP Concludes with Launch of Final Report
United Nations High Level Panel - Group photo
UNHLP participants attending their final meeting in New York City, USA

The second and final report of the United Nations High-Level Panel (UN HLP) on Women's Economic Empowerment (WEE) was launched online on March 14th, 2017, marking the end of the one-year UN HLP process. UN HLP participants, including WIEGO International Coordinator Marty Chen, met on the day of the launch to reflect on the process (the scheduled launch event at UN Headquarters was canceled due to bad weather).

The second report delves deeper into the seven drivers of women's economic empowerment that were identified in the first report, namely: tackling adverse norms; ensuring legal protection and reforming discriminatory laws and regulations; recognizing, reducing and redistributing unpaid work and care; building assets; changing business culture and practice; improving public sector practices in employment and procurement; and strengthening visibility, collective voice and representation. In the context of these seven areas, the report makes recommendations for a range of stakeholders to advance WEE. In the coming weeks, a practical toolkit of case studies and resources will be launched to complement the report.

Throughout the UN HLP, WIEGO has aimed to bring the voices of women informal workers into the process and to ensure that their experiences, perspectives and demands were reflected in both the first report launched at the UN General Assembly in September 2016, and the second report launched in March. As a result, informal work was taken on as a major focus of both reports, and quotes from WIEGO members and examples from the WIEGO network were included in both.

Learn more about WIEGO's participation in the UN HLP process.

For more on WIEGO's stance on women's economic empowerment, read Towards a Transformative Agenda for Women's Economic Empowerment by Jenna Harvey on the WIEGO blog (Mar 6, 2017).

Visit our page on women's economic empowerment.
Waste Pickers around the World Celebrate
International Waste Pickers Day
Waste Pickers gather to recognize International Waste Pickers Day
Waste pickers and allies demonstrate on the streets of Bogota, Colombia (Photo: GlobalRec)

Waste pickers and their representative organizations across the globe celebrated March 1st, International Waste Pickers Day, with a range of online campaigns, demonstrations and celebrations. These included: an annual demonstration in Bogota, Colombia put on by the National Association of Recyclers; an online petition to protect waste pickers in Ecuador from displacement; the launch of an online radio project for and by waste pickers in India; and the launch of a collaborative video for the global campaign "Recycling in Our Hands" (in Spanish with English subtitles) coordinated by the Argentinian Federation of Waste-pickers. Read about all of these actions and more on the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers website.

In addition, see images submitted by waste pickers and allies across the world by searching the hashtag #RecyclinginOurHands (#ReciclandoenNuestrasManos for Spanish).

WIEGO marked the day by launching new blog posts by two of WIEGO's waste picker specialists:

Four strategies to integrate waste pickers into future cities by Sonia Dias (Feb 28, 2017). Also available in Spanish.

Our Work is a Public Service an interview with Federico Parra (Mar 2, 2017). Only available in Spanish. 

We also launched a new infographic on social media.
Learning Exchange Highlights Strategies for Inclusive Urban Planning
Informal Workers from India and Thailand meet
Learning exchange participants in Ahmedabad, India

In March 2017, a delegation of informal worker leaders and municipal officials from eight Thai cities traveled to Ahmedabad, India for a learning exchange with the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA). The exchange built on the long-standing relationship between HomeNet Thailand, SEWA and WIEGO, and was supported under projects by the European Union and the Rockefeller Foundation. WIEGO Focal City Coordinator for Bangkok, Sarah Reed, accompanied the Thai delegates on the exchange and provided support throughout.

Delegates met market vendors from Ahmedabad's historic Bhadra market and waste collectors from SEWA's Gitanjali cooperative, toured SEWA Bank, and visited childcare, health, and educational facilities. In observing SEWA's diverse initiatives and meeting with members, they were challenged to consider: What critical roles do informal workers play in the urban system? And how can cities and member-based organizations collaborate to advance their rights and livelihoods?

During the visits, SEWA members shared their experiences - both successful and challenging - of working with the municipality to create more inclusive processes, particularly around street vending and solid waste management. They described a delicately balanced relationship between SEWA and the Ahmedabad Municipal Commission, which periodically alternates between collaboration, negotiation, and confrontation. As delegates observed, SEWA's strength as a membership-based organization empowers its leaders to engage with the municipality in a flexible and strategic manner.

In the coming weeks, look out for a new feature on the WIEGO blog describing the learning exchange and next steps for the Thai delegates.
First Law and the Informal Economy Newsletter Released

In March, WIEGO's Law Programme launched a  Law and the Informal Economy Newsletter (also available in Spanish and  French). The newsletter details the Law Programme's key areas of work over the course of its first year (since its inauguration in 2015). A new newsletter will be released every six months.  
Featured WIEGO Events
In coordination with the Rockefeller Foundation's Asia Regional Office, WIEGO organized a policy workshop on January 20 titled, "Informal Workers & Universal Health Coverage: Challenges & Opportunities." The workshop was organized as a side event ahead of the Prince Mahidol Awards Conference, an annual international conference focusing on policy-related health issues (held this year in Bangkok, Thailand). The workshop built on a 2014 collaboration funded by the Rockefeller Foundation between WIEGO, HomeNet Thailand, the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), and Asiye eTafuleni (a Durban-based NGO) focused on developing models for improving health coverage for informal workers.

The workshop highlighted ideas developed during the 2014 collaboration, and identified progress made since.  From WIEGO, Laura Alfers (Acting Director, WIEGO Social Protection Programme) Francie Lund, (Advisor, WIEGO Social Protection Programme) and Marty Chen participated, together with representatives from HomeNet Thailand, SEWA, Asiye e Tafuleni, the Artisans Association of Cambodia and HomeNet Southeast Asia.

Read more about the workshop.
At the request of HomeNet Thailand, the National Statistical Office of Thailand hosted a seminar and discussion on improving official data on home-based workers and domestic workers in Bangkok on February 1. The seminar was led by Joann Vanek (Director, WIEGO Statistics Programme), and Marty Chen, with support from Sarah Reed.

The meeting was important in strengthening ties and communication between the National Statistical Office, WIEGO, HomeNet Thailand, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Thailand Department of Labour and Welfare. The meeting reflected the ongoing efforts of WIEGO and the Thailand National Statistical Office to improve data on informal employment, employment in the informal sector and on different categories of informal workers.

Read more about the seminar.

From March 1-2 WIEGO co-hosted, together with Friederich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Zambia, a meeting entitled "Extending Social Security to Informal Economy Workers in Africa" in Durban, South Africa. The meeting was attended by representatives from the International Trade Union Confederation - African Labour Research Network (ITUC-ALRN), and the Africa Platform on Social Protection (APSP). The meeting was organized as a follow up to a 2016 encounter between the four organizations (WIEGO, FES Zambia, ITUC-ALRN and APSP), during which they agreed to engage in collaborative advocacy work around social protection in African countries. The two-day event involved a day of planning, followed by a day of stakeholder dialogue with representatives from Durban's trade unions, civil society and informal worker organizations. The event organizers from WIEGO included Laura Alfers, Francie Lund, Pamhidzai Bamu (Africa Coordinator, WIEGO Law Programme), and Vanessa Pillay (Organization and Representation Programme Officer).
New from the WIEGO Blog
Strategies for Successful Collective Negotiations
By Chris Bonner, Jan 16, 2017. Also available in Spanish.

Protecting Homeworkers in Global Supply Chains: Evaluating The Rights-Based Approach
By Marlese von Broembsen, Feb 13, 2017. Also available in Spanish.

Can informal employment actually reduce poverty? 
By Mike Rogan and Paul Cichello, Feb 16, 2017.

Four strategies to integrate waste pickers into future cities.
By Sonia Dias, Feb 28, 2017. Also available in Spanish.

Strategies for Addressing Social and Legal Barriers for Mexican Domestic Workers
By Tania Espinosa Sánchez, March 28, 2017. Also available in Spanish.
New Publications and Resources on WIEGO Website

Eaton, Adrienne, Susan Schurman and Martha Chen. 2017. Informal Workers and Collective Action: A Global Perspective. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. (Full publication must be accessed through Cornell University Press). 

Alfers, Laura. 2017. The Informal Workers Health Project. Cambridge, MA, USA: WIEGO.

Moussié, Rachel. 2017. Women Informal Workers Mobilizing for Child Care. Cambridge, MA, USA: WIEGO. Also available in available in Spanish and French.

Childcare Initiative Summary Report by Laura Alfers now available in  Hindi.

Access all five of the policy briefs that WIEGO prepared for the UN HLP on:
Video: The Warrior Within edited by Rhiana Chinapen in coordination with Sonia Dias and Ana Carolina Ogando.

Blog post: Chen, Martha. The Informal Economy in African Cities: Key to Inclusive and Sustainable Urban Development, OECD Development Matters Blog. April 4, 2017.