Marlese von Broembsen

Marlese von Broembsen
Director, Law Programme
All around the world, the law criminalizes the activities of street traders and waste pickers, and excludes homeworkers from employment rights and benefits. What is needed are new legal and institutional approaches to informal workers that recognize informal workers as workers and as contributors to the economy.
informal economy, development and labour law, global value chains, and legal empowerment of the poor

Marlese von Broembsen joined WIEGO as the first Law Programme Director in October 2015. She lives in Cape Town, South Africa. 

Marlese holds law degrees from the University of Cape Town and Harvard Law School and an M.A. in Development Studies from the University of the Western Cape. Prior to joining WIEGO, Marlese was a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town, where she convened an inter-disciplinary Master's in Social Justice. She was also an adjunct faculty member of North Eastern Law School (USA) in 2018, where she taught a course on law and development.

After qualifying as an attorney, Marlese worked for an NGO active in small business development in Cape Town's informal settlements for four years. She co-taught a master's course on social policy at the Institute for Social Development, University of the Western Cape, for three years. Marlese was the lead researcher for UCT's Graduate School of Business' Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2005 publication on the informal economy, and wrote the South African paper on small business rights for the UNDP's Commission for the Legal Empowerment of the Poor. As a partner of South Consulting, she project-managed human rights initiatives and economic development in Southern and Eastern Africa.

Marlese was a recipient of a Harvard South Africa Fellowship (2014); a David and Elaine Potter Research Fellowship for contribution to civil society (2014; 2015); and a National Research Foundation Innovation Scholarship (2014). From August 2015 - December 2018, she was a Visiting Researcher at the Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP), Harvard Law School.

Marlese writes on labour law and development; transnational regulation of global value chains; and on homeworkers.


Von Broembsen, Marlese. 2018. ‘Constitutionalizing Labour Rights: Informal Homeworkers in Global Value Chains’ International Journal of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations Vol. 34  (3) pp. 257–280.

The IGLP Law and Global Production Working Group. 2016. "The Role of Law in Global Value Chains: A Research Manifesto", 4,  London Rev. Int'l L. 57-79 (Contributor).   

Von Broembsen, Marlese. 2012. ‘People want to work, yet most have to labour: Towards decent work in South African supply chains’  Law, Development and Democracy Volume 16, pp.1-28.

Von Broembsen, MarleseM. 2012. ‘Mediating from the Margins: The Role of Intermediaries in Facilitating Participation in Formal Markets by Poor Producers and Users’ SAJLR Volume 36(1), pp. 31- 53.

Von Broembsen, Marlese. 2010. ‘Informal Business and Poverty in South Africa: Re-thinking the Paradigm’ Law Democracy and Development, Volume 10, pp.1-34.


Von Broembsen, Marlese. 2020. ‘Realizing the New Urban Agenda’s ideal of social inclusion: Street vendors’ participation in decision-making about the use of public space’ in (eds) Nestor Davidson and Geeta Tewari Law and the New Urban Agenda, Routledge, New York.

Von Broembsen, Marlese & Laura Alfers. 2019. ‘The UN Guiding Principles and the Informal Economy: Homeworkers in Global Supply Chains’ in (ed) Matthew Mullen, Navigating a New Era of Business and Human Rights (open source).

Von Broembsen, Marlese and Godfrey, S. 2016 ‘Labour Law and Development viewed from below: What do case studies of the clothing sectors in South Africa and Lesotho tell us?’ in (ed) Shelley Marshall and Colin Fenwick,  Labour Regulation and Development Edward Elgar, Northampton, USA.

Von Broembsen, Marlese. 2011. ‘Poverty, Legal Empowerment and Informal Business in South Africa’ in Poverty, Labour and the Informal Economy in Africa: An Agenda for 'Legal Empowerment'? (ed) Dan Banik, Ashgate, Surrey.


Von Broembsen, Marlese. 2012. ‘Legal Empowerment of the Poor: The Re-emergence of a Lost Strand of Human Rights?’ Rapoport Human Rights Working Paper Series, Texas University.

Von Broembsen, Marlese. 2-13. ‘A New Constituting Narrative for Labour Law: A critique of Development and Making a Case for  Fraser’s Conception of Social Justice,’ LLRN Inaugural Conference.

Von Broembsen, Marlese. ‘You can’t bite the hand that feeds you: The commercial and contractual relations between the four large South African food retailers and their SME suppliers’ REDI 3x3 Working Paper 22, November 2016(Commissioned).

Von Broembsen, Marlese, Jenna Harvey, and Marty Chen. 2019. ‘Realizing Rights for Homeworkers: An Analysis of Governance Mechanisms’ Carr Centre . CCDP 2019-004, March 3/5/2019.

Von Broembsen, Marlese and Jenna Harvey. 2019. "Decent work for homeworkers in global supply chains: existing and potential mechanisms for worker-centred governance” ILO GLU Working Paper No. 54


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