Copenhagen meeting - Waste pickers 2009WIEGO is distinct from other global research or advocacy organizations.  Several features set us apart:

  1. WIEGO’s research and policy analysis focus on the concrete reality of the working poor, especially women, in the informal economy.  Our research and policy agenda reflects their needs and demands.  
  2. WIEGO seeks to improve research and official statistics on the informal economy. This both increases the visibility of the working poor in the informal economy and fortifies the efforts of their organizations to secure a more supportive policy and regulatory environment. 
  3. As a membership-based network, WIEGO represents a powerful collaboration. We draw on the distinct expertise of our three constituencies:
  • membership-based organizations of informal workers: organizing strategies, service delivery, and the lived reality of their members
  • researchers and statisticians: research and statistical methods and knowledge
  • development practitioners in government, international development agencies, and NGOs: programmatic interventions, policy analysis and advocacy
  1. WIEGO promotes alliances between and effectively combines the ‘value added’ of our three constituencies:
  • the grounded understanding, collective strength, and moral authority of membership-based organizations of informal workers
  • the rigorous findings and informed analysis of the research and statistical institutions
  • the leverage and influence of informed policymakers
  1. We undertake policy analysis for – and promote policy advocacy with – membership-based organizations of informal workers. These organizations can serve as a vehicle for collecting evidence about the needs and experience of  working poor women and their families. They are also powerful advocates for policy reform.
  2. WIEGO Panel at European Union Development Days

A Unique Approach

The unique approach and contribution of the WIEGO network is that we jointly seek:

  • to put work, workers, and workers’ organizations at the center of development discourse, policies, and processes
  • to investigate how different groups of the working poor in the informal economy – especially women – are integrated into and contribute to the formal economy and the global economy
  • to investigate the quantity and quality of work (economic opportunities) created by different patterns of economic growth and global integration
  • to focus on sectors that employ large numbers of poorer working women (domestic work, home-based production, street vending, and waste picking)
  • to use strategic institutional mapping as a way of identifying points of entry for policy reform for the economic empowerment of women
  • to identify appropriate policies, regulations, and practices to regulate the employment and commercial arrangements of the working poor in the informal economy, to protect their rights, and to promote their livelihoods

With our members in research and statistical institutions, WIEGO seeks to convince mainstream researchers, especially neo-classical economists, to recognize the informal economy as a key component of the total economy and, therefore, an important area for mainstream economic analysis and policymaking.

With our members in international development agencies, national governments and NGOs, WIEGO seeks to convince their colleagues of the importance of recognizing the impact of their policies and programmes – both economic and social – on informal workers and to accord high priority to promoting the rights, voice, protection, and opportunities of informal workers.

Most centrally, we seek to support membership-based organizations of informal workers, as well as networks of these organizations, to gain strength and recognition as legitimate, representative democratic organizations and to enhance their capacity to shape the policy and regulatory environment that affects the work and lives of their members.

We are unaware of any comparable effort to mobilize credible research, statistics and policy analysis in support of the everyday struggle for rights and dignity of the working poor – especially women – in the informal economy.

Our agenda is ambitious. And we know that this long-term agenda cannot be achieved in a few years. As Ela Bhatt – founder of the Self-Employed Women’s Association and founding chair of WIEGO – stated at WIEGO’s first general assembly in 1999, “It took SEWA 10 years to build an organization and 20 years to build a movement.”