WIEGO Newsletter - August 2012

Covering the period January - June 2012

Boletín Informativo de WIEGO - Agosto 2012
Cubriendo de enero a junio de 2012

WIEGO e-News January-June 2012

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  • WIEGO Turns 15 with Renewed Purpose (Bellagio)
  • New WIEGO Publication Series
  • Informal Economy Monitoring Study
  • Rio+20 and the People's Summit

WIEGO Network

  • Growing Membership
  • Broadening Reach
  • Focal Cities

Sector News

  • Domestic Workers
  • Home-Based Workers
  • Street Vendors
  • Waste Pickers

Programme Updates

  • Organization & Representation
  • Statistics
  • Global Trade
  • Social Protection
  • Urban Policies

Global Projects & Special Initiatives

  • Inclusive Cities Project
  • Exposure Dialogue Publication

Communication & Dissemination

  • Websites
  • Newsletters
  • Translation and Interpretation
  • Social Media
  • New Publications & Resources



WIEGO Turns 15 with Renewed Purpose (Bellagio)

In April, WIEGO marked the 15th anniversary of its inception. In 1997, 10 activists, scholars, researchers, and development professionals who had long worked on the informal economy met in Bellagio, Italy. They wanted to address a shared concern: that official statistics and mainstream policymakers do not adequately understand or value the contribution of informal workers, especially women workers, to national economies. Most of the features that define WIEGO today were part of the original plan. However, the original founders could not have envisioned how the WIEGO project would transform into a global action-research-policy network and continue to grow and evolve. For more, visit WIEGO: 15 Years of Achievements

In June, WIEGO held Strategic Review & Planning Workshop called “The Working Poor In The Informal Economy: Strengthening A Global Alliance, Forging A Global Response” at the Rockefeller Foundation Conference and Study Center in Bellagio. Members of the WIEGO Board and Team, as well as seven external advisors, met to discuss wider trends affecting the size, composition, and dynamics of the informal economy; new stakeholders working on or interested in the informal economy; and WIEGO’s niche or value going forward. From all accounts, the Bellagio workshop was a great success: the “best WIEGO meeting ever” according to several WIEGO Board and Team members and the “most stimulating meeting recently attended” according to a couple of the outside resource persons. The WIEGO Team feels a renewed sense of purpose going forward and will be drawing up a five-year work plan at their annual retreat in October.

New WIEGO Publication Series

WIEGO has launched a new Publication Series, which includes (to date) 24 Working Papers containing research that makes a contribution to existing knowledge about the informal economy. Many are new, some have been re-edited; all were produced between 2008 and 2012. There are also four kinds of Briefs (Organizing, Policy, Statistical and Technical) as well as in-depth profiles of individual workers (under the title Workers’ Lives). To view this body of work and download publications, visit WIEGO Publication Series. Ensuring this content gets to key audiences, especially membership-based organization (MBO) leaders and local officials, will be a critical focus in the upcoming period.

Informal Economy Monitoring Study (IEMS)

The Informal Economy Monitoring Study (IEMS), the first-ever multi-year, multi-city, and multi-disciplinary study of the urban informal economy was launched in April with a research training workshop held in Durban, South Africa. Forty researchers and 10 MBO coordinators from the 10 cities where the IEMS study will be conducted participated. Thanks to the organizational facilitation of Imraan Valodia, who is directing the research project, and Inclusive Cities partner Asiye eTafuleni (AeT), the researchers were able to pilot the qualitative and quantitative methods with focus groups of home-based workers, street vendors, and waste pickers from the Warwick Junction area of Durban. The three-year IEMS is designed to monitor change in the livelihoods of these groups of urban informal workers over time. It will explore what is driving the changes, how informal workers respond to the changes – both individually and through organization – and which institutions/institutional players help or hinder their responses. Read more.

Rio + 20 and The People’s Summit

WIEGO and its allies participated in Rio+20 – United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development – and at the concurrent People’s Summit in June. As world leaders gathered to discuss sustainable development and the future of our planet, an alternative People’s Summit drew thousands of social activists from across the world to voice their issues and offer sustainable solutions. Hundreds of waste pickers attended to champion their environmental contributions and stand against waste policies that are destructive environmentally and socially. Street vendors protested against the global trend toward eviction of informal street vendors and the impact of mega-events on their ability to work. WIEGO provided logistical, communication and other support.

At the Rio+20 Summit, WIEGO’s Sector Specialist for Waste Pickers, Sonia Dias, presented in a panel discussion on gender issues and the workplace, and contributed a chapter for a UNDP book launched at the conference. At the People’s Summit,Lucia Fernandez, Global Coordinator for Waste Pickers, took part in an Analysis of the Global Situation for Waste Pickers, and in a presentation against waste incineration and privatization. WIEGO International Coordinator, Marty Chen, was a civil society advisor on the US delegation to the Rio+20 conference. On the final day of Rio+20, June 22, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for “an inclusive economy” that recognizes and takes into account the needs of workers in the informal economy. Read more.

WIEGO Network

Growing Membership

WIEGO continued to implement the membership strategy approved by the Board in July 2011, inviting 32 national affiliates of StreetNet International and the regional network of waste pickers in Latin America to become Institutional Members. After its founding congress in 2013, the International Domestic Workers Network (IDWN) and its national affiliates will be invited to join. As of June 2012, WIEGO had 172 members – 32 Institutional Members and 140 Individual Members in 42 countries.

Broadening Reach

WIEGO is now active in, or has members in, 52 countries. Further, during 2011-2012, WIEGO has current activities in 32 cities: with more than four activities in eight of these cities (Accra, Ahmedabad, Durban, Bangkok, Belo Horizonte, Bogota, Lima and Pune).

Focal Cities

The WIEGO Team is putting greater emphasis on our activities at the local city level. This city focus is intended to ensure the gains from national/international advocacy translate into concrete outcomes for informal workers. An initial pair of focal cities – Accra, Ghana and Lima, Peru – has been selected. In Accra, local facilitator Dorcas Ansah has been contracted to, in part, carry on where the earlier Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Project left off, with follow up on the commitments made by local government to improved sanitation and fire safety in the markets and with more policy dialogues aimed at giving informal workers greater voice in local policymaking. The WIEGO Regional Advisor for Latin America, Carmen Roca, is based in Lima and has developed a wide range of WIEGO activities in that city. In both cities, local reference groups have been set up. And for both cities, WIEGO advisory groups have been set up.

Sector News

Domestic Workers

To celebrate the first anniversary of the adoption of the ILO Convention and accompanying Recommendation on Decent Work for Domestic Workers on 16 June, the International Domestic Workers’ Network (IDWN) organized events of celebration and advocacy. Read more about the IDWN's anniversary activities.

WIEGO continues to support domestic workers and the IDWN in their campaigns for the ratification of C189. In May, Uruguay became the first country to ratify it. A concerted push was launched by local organizations, supported by the IDWN, to have it ratified in the Philippines, where it will be enacted if it receives Senate approval in the coming months. The IDWN and allies have been supporting initiatives such as the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)’s 12x12 Campaign, which wants to see 12 countries ratify C189 in 2012. IDWN is also helping organizations coordinate local public events as part of the campaign and undertake solidarity actions in different countries.

The IDWN launched a new website in March 2012 (http://www.idwfed.org/en), published a newsletter in English, Spanish and French and produced e-newsletters sent to a listserv of over 6,000 contacts. Other new resources include the leaflet “What is it, What it does” (3,000 copies in English); membership recruitment documents; the video C189: Conventional Wisdom; and an ILO-Asia/IDWN Trainers’ Manual currently being produced.

The IDWN has also started building its democratic structures and formalizing the network by recruiting MBOs into formal membership. At the International Steering Committee meeting in May 2012, 14 organizations were accepted. A founding congress is being considered for 2013. WIEGO has played a role in supporting, financially and otherwise, IDWN International Coordinator Elizabeth Tangand her activities. Karin Pape, WIEGO’s Regional Coordinator in Europe, has continued to engage in advocacy, relationship building and networking. She gave a presentation at the Critical Labour Studies conference in Manchester, UK in February; see ILO Convention C 189 – A Good Start for Protection of Domestic Workers.

Regional conferences/workshop in Asia and Central America strengthened the alliances of IDWN, ITUC, ILO and other organizations, and produced positive results and concrete actions for follow up. A number of other regional and national conferences, workshops, and meetings built alliances and disseminated information in the first half of 2012. These included:

  • a workshop in Berlin with migrant and church organizations in February
  • a workshop on social security in March in Manila, Philippines
  • 8th annual conference on “Illegality” in Berlin (theme for 2012: domestic work) in March
  • expert strategizing workshop on ratification of C189 in April in Berlin
  • an IDWN/Global Network Domestic Workers Conference in April in Peru, where meetings were also held with unions, the Minister of Labour Advisor, ILO, and NGOs
  • the IUF Women’s Conference and IUF Congress, both in May
  • a Global Network Conference, also in May, in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
  • the Decent Work for Domestic Workers Consultation Workshop, with the International Catholic Centre of Geneva, in June

WIEGO has also assisted with communications, translation, fund raising, reporting and liaison with the Research Network for Domestic Workers Rights, and helped with editing a booklet written by Kenya domestic workers.

Domestic workers still face many challenges, including the lack of a basic right to organize under the law in many countries. In some countries they are not considered as workers so are not allowed to form or join trade unions. Sustainability of the IDWN and of national and regional organizations is crucial, and serious and systematic training and capacity-building of leadership is required.

Home-Based Workers

WIEGO has been helping to coordinate networking activities of home-based workers and building the capacity of the regional organizations and their affiliates. The following activities have been undertaken to do this.

South Asia – Ongoing advice and support was given to HomeNet South Asia to facilitate the development of MBOs amongst some of the HomeNets in Asia. Consultation and advice was provided to HomeNet Pakistan on the transition to an MBO structure, and preliminary research was done to better understand the composition of their membership and the categories of home-based workers whom they support. This led to field visits and a workshop in April, which generated detailed recommendations on a possible new structure and transition process, submitted to HomeNet Pakistan’s Board. Immediately following, another workshop on mapping the supply chain of home-based workers in Pakistan, held in Lahore, was led by WIEGO’s Global Trade Programme. Read more.

As part of the Inclusive Cities programme, HomeNet South Asia (HNSA) undertook several studies of urban poor home-based workers, looking at key issues facing this very vulnerable group of informal workers. The detailed studies fill a significant gap in what was previously known about low-income home-based workers in most of the countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand). Initial findings will be complemented by additional research, including studies of urban policies and practices and their impact on home-based workers in the coming years. WIEGO provided editing support for a report on this work.

South-East Europe – Support was given for a project to promote organization building and networking in South-East Europe. This project supported mapping of home-based workers in Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, and Serbia with a view to identifying who they are, what they do, their linkages with companies and organizations, and to encourage organization building in countries and networking in the region. It also involved two sub-regional training workshops, one regional workshop, development of a website and a newsletter for HomeNet South-East Europe. Through this process, contact was made with more than 1,800 workers, and reports were prepared. WIEGO also supported and participated in HomeNet SE Europe Conference, held in Bulgaria in February with 40 participants from home-based worker organizations in Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Turkey, as well as local unionists and international participants. An informal network and a centre to take forward the organizing of home-based workers in the region was agreed upon.

Latin America – Laura Morilla was contracted to complete the initial phases of mapping home-based workers in Latin America through a scoping exercise, web searches and contacting a wide range of people/organizations. Phase two which will include a field visit to countries/cities that have been identified as potentially having organized groups of home-based workers or supportive NGOs that could assist in organizing.

Street Vendors

WIEGO aims to document good policy and organizational practice that has resulted in more secure livelihoods, and to contribute to policy and academic debates of relevance to street vendors.

  • Inclusive laws and litigation are particularly important for this group. A lot of the work done by WIEGO’s Urban Policies Programme on urban informal economy law during this period has focused on street vending. In conjunction with posting and disseminating a weekly news roundup, Street Vendor Sector Specialist Sally Roever is building a database of documented harassment and evictions of street vendors (that are reported in English). The data at present indicate a rate of about one eviction per day worldwide that eliminates the livelihood of 148 workers on average per day. She is developing methodologies for measuring evictions reported in other languages and everyday harassment that goes unreported in traditional media.
  • Two papers examining good practices are almost complete for the WIEGO Publication Series. Regularization of Street Vending in Bhubaneswar, India by Randhir Kumar is a policy brief which describes and analyzes a special vendor zoning scheme in that city. . Market Women in Jayapura, Indonesia is an upcoming Working Paper written by Sophie Crocker that provides a political economy analysis of exclusive practices towards street vendors in that city. A third case study examines successful opposition of a mall development that threatened the livelihoods of nearly 8,000 street traders in Warwick Junction, Durban.
  • When news broke that the government in São Paulo, Brazil had banned street trading in May, WIEGO disseminated the news through its myriad channels and translated news into English to help street vendor organizations and activists get the word out.
  • WIEGO Urban Policies Director Caroline Skinner has been engaging with South African Local Government Association about their street vendor policy. She has also been advising Cape Town’s spatial planning department in their work on street traders and how to include the informal economy in their local economic development monitoring system.

Waste Pickers

  • Monitoring and support have been provided to Asociacion Recicladores de Bogota (ARB) in Colombia as a result of their legal victory: a constitutional court ruling in December 2011 that mandated that associations of waste pickers should be allowed to bid for municipal solid waste management contracts. During January, February and March, WIEGO supported the technical team from ARB to draft their proposal for inclusion of all waste pickers into their new collection system. WIEGO’s Operations Manager Mike Bird helped them with the negotiations. The process is ongoing and will require further support from WIEGO in the implementation phase.
  • Sonia Dias, WIEGO’s Waste Picker Sector Specialist, has been has been working on a research-action project to test pilot indicators of sustainability of segregation-at-source programmes. The project is a joint collaboration of the University of São Paulo and WIEGO and will involve waste picker representatives.
  • In francophone Africa, mapping activities were done in Cameroon, Mali, Benin and Madagascar by a consultant, Kapita Tuwizana. Information on this is captured in the Waste Picking in Africa newsletter, (April 2012). Training was also provided for the Federation of Informal Workers in Nigeria (FIWON) to do mapping. Following this, FIWON field workers made contact with several groups/organizations of waste pickers in different Nigerian cities.
  • In Managua, Nicaragua, the first Central American Conference of Waste Pickers was followed by the RedLacre Latin American Assembly in February. At the Assembly, 60 waste picker representatives from 17 countries discussed their new structure and formed new committees to tackle gender, climate change livelihood protection, and global issues. WIEGO co-organized and supported the events.
  • The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and Stree Mukti Sangathana (SMS) organized, as part of their subgrantee programme with WIEGO, a Biogas Workshop in Mumbai in March that included a skill-sharing seminar on emerging biogas technologies. Participants came from across India and from the Netherlands, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Nepal and the Philippines.
  • In India, the Alliance of India Wastepickers and local organizations gained strength and increased influence with municipal officials. An Urban Local Bodies Consultation brought 17 local urban bodies to meet in Pune, where the 2nd National Convention of Waste Pickers was held in April,also under a subgrantee programme with WIEGO. The convention brought 500 waste pickers from across India and some from abroad; resolutions were made on child labour and pensions.
  • At the Global Strategic Workshop in Pune, India in April, 80 waste picker representatives from 34 cities on different continents discussed integration into solid waste management systems, their current situations and the threats they face in their cities. Through focus group discussions and mapping their own city’s model, participants shared and learned from each other and addressed ways to move forward collectively on many levels: locally, nationally and globally. All information, including presentations, pictures, and drawings, are available at: globalrec.org. A final report is also available.  KKPKP, the waste pickers' union in Pune, hosted the event and co-organized it with WIEGO on behalf of the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers. Prior to the workshop, KKPKP and SWaCH, its affiliated cooperative, hosted waste picker groups and activists on field visits to see different parts of Pune’s decentralized, zero waste management system, handled by the SWaCH Cooperative. Biogas, composting, door-to-door collection and sorting sites were part of the tour.
  • There is ongoing collaboration between the waste picker team and MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP, Co-Lab, in Boston, USA). This department has been linked with waste pickers’ groups (particularly Indian partners) through WIEGO; the affiliation includes teaching about waste pickers’ organizations as part of a waste course. In April, the MIT-Co-Lab attended the Global Strategic Workshop and documented if/how waste pickers are integrated in the solid waste management systems of 30 cities.
  • WIEGO supported the production of videos for SWaCH’s work with the Pune Municipal Corporation, and a video of 1st Centro-American Conference of Waste Pickers.

Programme Updates

Organization & Representation Programme

There has been a focus on research and writing during the period which we hope will contribute to promoting a greater understanding of, and support for, informal economy workers’ movements among broader networks of trade unions, cooperatives, development agencies and policymakers. The Solidarity Center, an important ally headquartered in the USA, requested that WIEGO produce a paper on organizing informal workers, which Celia Mather wrote. WIEGO Research Project: Informal Workers’ Organizing has reportedly begun to influence the Solidarity Center at the global level and in different countries where it operates.

Resources for Organizing

The Only School We Have: Learning from Experiences across the Informal Economy is a handbook about organizing in the informal economy that draws extensively on the workshop held in Bangkok in March 2011. 

The WORD data-base, which offers detailed information on organizations around the globe, was expanded by 20 per cent to 660 entries; old entries are being updated. Shirley Miller, a consultant, did an analysis of the entries by occupational group, region, country, organizational type and various cross combinations of data. See Analysis of the WIEGO Organization and Representation Data-Base (WORD).

Networking in Eastern Europe

  • Contact was made with home-based worker and domestic worker organizations in Turkey, where WIEGO attended and participated in the AWID Conference in April.
  • Contact with range of new unions/organizations was established and new affiliates for StreetNet were recruited through a field visit by the International Coordinator of StreetNet and WIEGO European Advisor to Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine in April/May.
  • A training workshop in Georgia on organizing in the informal economy, co-organized by StreetNet and ILO, made use of the Resource Books for Organizers (written by Organization and Representation Director Chris Bonner and jointly published by WIEGO and StreetNet), which StreetNet has had translated into Russian. This event created commitment to training on organizing informal workers in some Eastern European countries.

Law & Informality

The Law & Informality project is creating more awareness of how law impacts on informal workers, and working to identify more favourable and accessible laws. Country studies and other activities are underway in Ghana, Peru and Thailand. Key among the project’s objectives is to build capacity, especially among women leadership in informal worker organizations, to understand and engage with legal issues through advocacy and negotiation for the implementation of favourable legal change. Project Coordinators areRoopa Madhav and Kamala Sankaran. In May 2012, a workshop was held in India with project teams from the three countries, WIEGO team members and a representative of the International Development Research Council (IDRC). This allowed all teams to interact, share insights into their work and present their plans, and to discuss how to coordinate the project efforts and other work within WIEGO that focuses on law and informality.

Ghana – The project partner in Ghana isthe Ghana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), and consultations and focus groups have been held with domestic workers, street vendors and kayayeis (women headloaders)to identify and map the legal issues for each sector.A preliminary background paper for each occupational group has also been prepared. As a direct outcome of the networking with new occupational groups in Ghana, the GTUC has expressed an interest in organizing the unorganized workers, more particularly the difficult task of organizing the kayayeisand raising demands for licenses and shelters with the local municipalities.

Peru – The project partner inPeru is ISCOD (the international development arm of the Spanish trade union federation UGT). Consultation meetings were held with waste pickers, domestic workers, market porters, and street vendors, and capacity building courses have run on a weekly basis on laws affecting the particular groups.   A preliminary draft of a background paper on Law and the Informal Economy in Peru has been prepared. Creative, user-friendly material pertaining to the impact of law on occupational groups has been prepared and disseminated among organizations.

Thailand – The project partner in Thailand is HomeNet Thailand. Significant progress has been made in work on home-based workers and domestic workers. The background document on Law and the Informal Economy in Thailand has been prepared and translated into English. There have been consultations with home-based workers focused on refining the new law for homeworkers. Additionally, a survey on the Homeworkers Act and its implementation and a set of case studies is complete and is being translated. A stakeholder consultation with domestic workers to update them on the ILO Convention on Domestic Work and to mobilize workers to discuss migrant domestic workers in the country has been held. A national level consultation with domestic workers organizations was also organized. While in the last six months of the project period, HomeNet Thailand dealt with difficulties related to flooding and relief work, their work has progressed steadily and a consultation with contract farmers is being planned in the next few months.

Other activities included an ongoing collection and analysis of laws affecting waste pickers in Asia and Latin America.On a broader level, the Law and Informality project has enhanced WIEGO’s capacities to engage with legal and policy issues pertaining to informal economy workers, thus contributing at multiple levels – grassroots, national and international – to enhancing the legal and policy discourse.

For more information on ongoing activities and to see the India and Colombia pilot materials, visit WIEGO's Law & Informality microsite.

Statistics Programme

In both its technical and advocacy initiatives, WIEGO’s Statistical Programme sought to improve official statistics on informal employment and related topics of concern to WIEGO and our Institutional Members, and to ensure that the International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) definitions are consistently used. The Programme also worked to place statistics in the hands of users in formats that were easily accessible.

The Statistics Programme continued to work with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to prepare the publication Women and Men in the Informal Economy 2012: A Statistical Picture. The joint ILO/WIEGO report, authored by Joann Vanek, Martha Chen, Ralf Hussmanns, James Heintz, and Françoise Carré, will soon be published by ILO. The aim of the publication – following the success of the 2002 version – is that again it will become the preeminent source for regional estimates of informal employment worldwide. It is also intended to be an easily accessible resource for statistics on the topic. The data and metadata for 47 countries (including data for urban China), as well as other information resulting from the joint ILO and WIEGO activities are posted on the ILO Department of Statistics’ LABORSTA website.

The Statistics Programme provided technical advice to the Inclusive Cities Project on the development of statistics on informal employment in urban areas, in specific cities and on categories of informal workers, specifically home-based workers, street vendors and waste pickers. This included advising on the development of the Informal Economy Monitoring Study (see more under the Global Projects section). This advice helps to ensure the statistics and statistical analyses produced by theproject meet WIEGO’shigh standards and to develop data for use in WIEGO reports and advocacy.

A chapter on “Employment Change and Economic Vulnerability in America,” written by Françoise Carré and James Heintz, was finalized for an edited volume from the UK-based Resolution Foundation.

The Statistics Programme and its related research activities also:

  • played an advisory role on the UCLA Multinational Research Project on Organizing in the Informal Economy
  • advised the United States Domestic Worker Alliance Survey Project on survey design and review of its research report
  • provided technical advice on data collection, tabulation and analysis as a member of the International Technical Advisory Committee for the project “Poverty and Growth: Labour Markets in China and India”
  • initiated and maintained collaborative ties with international agencies working on issues on informal sector/informal employment, including the Economic Commission for Europe, International Expert Group on Informal Sector Statistics (known as the Delhi Group), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Statistical Division, UN Women, and the World Bank
  • prepared statistics, information on statistical methods and analyses for the WIEGO websites

Global Trade Programme

Women Organizing for Fair Trade (MDG3 Project)

The three-year MDG3 project wrapped up with publication of Trading Our Way Up – Women Organizing for Fair Trade, the most popular downloaded publication on wiego.org in the first part of 2012. A DVD was also produced containing all the photo journals and films for broader dissemination. The publication, written by Elaine Jones, Sally Smith and Carol Wills, and the project findings generated considerable interest. In April, Elaine Jones, Director of the WIEGO Global Trade Programme and co-author of the publication, presented on the project at the Fair Trade International Symposium, Liverpool Hope University, and co-delivered the Oxfam GB online webinar with Carol Wills in the Women’s Collective Action series. An article about the research was published in the March 2012 edition of Gender and Development.

Conference Participation

  • In April, a representative from one of the partners in the MDG3 project, Mallamma Yalawar from SABALA in India, was a participant in a panel co-facilitated by Elaine Jones and Karin Pape at the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) Conference in Turkey. Representatives from StreetNet International (Vilmar Arevalo) and the IDWN (Myrtle Witbooi) were also on the panel on Women Organizing in the Informal Economy. Julia Martin from the WIEGO Secretariat helped at the event, including with a booth in the conference exhibition hall to disseminate information. Following the AWID Conference, Elaine presented on WIEGO and Women in the Informal Economy at a workshop sponsored by the Multilateral Development Banks focusing on Gender and Employment.
  • In June, Elaine spoke at the Women for Women International Conference "Beyond the Arab Uprisings: Creating Economic Opportunities for Women” on “Practical Examples of What Works – Women as Employees and Entrepreneurs.” 

Ethical Trade

Global Value Chains

Social Protection Programme

Health Policy Dialogue in Bangkok

In partnership with HomeNet Thailand, WIEGO organized a Health Policy Dialogue in Bangkok in January, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation. It was linked to the Prince Mahidol Award Conference, a prestigious annual public health event in Thailand. The theme was barriers faced by informal workers to accessing health services. Case studies of recent health reforms in Ghana (by Laura Alfers), India (by Kalpana Jain) and Thailand (by Boonsom Namsomboon) were commissioned to reflect different policy choices, in terms especially of financing and services available, and the outcomes of these choices on poorer working people. The Health Policy Dialogue was followed by a presentation of the case studies at a panel session of the main conference. Chris Atim from the World Bank, Senegal, and SEWA’s Mirai Chatterjee were discussants at the panel.

Main lessons are being written up and the case studies will be made available in shorter and longer versions. Future outputs include an article being prepared by Laura Alfers and Kalpana Jain comparing the different financing bases of the Ghana National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in Ghana and theRashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSBY – a health scheme for the poor) in India, and how this affects informal workers. Also, the NHIS senior adviser and WIEGO Social Protection Programme will hold a National Health Policy Dialogue about the access of poorer informal workers (with a special focus on women headload porters, or kayayei) to the healthcare scheme.

Occupational Health and Safety Project Country Events

  • A media campaign in Accra was started due to recommendations from the Ghana OHS project evaluator. About 400 informal workers attended the Mmaa Nkomo television show, which is an extremely popular show in Ghana.
  • A final Multi Stakeholder Workshop was held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It involved national government (health and labour), trade unions, and informal worker representatives.
  • Feedback sessions were held on OHS research with waste pickers, street vendors and domestic workers in Salvador City, Brazil.
  • A meeting of the Reference Group/Multi Stakeholder Workshops in Brazil included representatives from: waste pickers, street vendors, and domestic worker associations, Ministry of Health, Salvador Municipality, Labour Department, Salvador Workers Health Reference Centre, and Bahia State Reference Centre for Workers Health.
  • Four focus groups were held in Lima, Peru with workers from the agro-processing industry, newspaper vendors, waste pickers, and market porters.
  • Laura Alfers and Dorcas Ansah (from the Ghana OHS project) visited two partner organizations in India – KKPKP and SEWA – to give assistance on budgeting and reporting requirements.

In April 2012, WIEGO’s OHS Project turned three years old. It is now moving into the dissemination phase. The research done over the last two years will be used to promote OHS for informal workers at local, national, and international levels. Publication of research on OHS and domestic workers in Tanzania and Brazil is in the final stages. The report includes an interactive methods section for other researchers to use. The Peru focus group report is being translated into English, and a report on working conditions of seaweed farmers in Zanzibar is nearly complete. Two reports on OHS and informal workers in Ghana are also forthcoming.

For more on this project, see the OHS microsite, which contains the newsletter.

Contributions to the Knowledge-Base

  • Programme Director Francie Lund was an external adviser to the UN Special Rapporteur on Health, on the development of his report on The Right to Occupational Health, with a special focus on informal workers. The report was presented to the Twentieth Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
  • Francie made a presentation in February to the South Africa Employment Conditions Commission (which sets minimum wages for different sectors) on the conditions of work and workers benefits in the welfare (social services) sector in South Africa, focusing on workers in the unskilled low paid and volunteer categories.
  • James Heintz and Francie finalized a paper on social policy and the changing structure of employment, one of two papers (the other by Sarah Cook and Shahra Razavi) done as the first phase of what was proposed as a two-phase collaboration between WIEGO and United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD).
  • The programme collaborated in the production, with Pat Horn of StreetNet, of a pamphlet for the ILC General Discussion on the Recommendation for a Global Social Protection Floor, June 2012.
  • Francie was invited to submit an article focusing on the issue of preventive health measures in occupational health and safety for a special issue of the International Social Security Review. The ILO-based ISSR is widely read by social security advisers, officials and academics throughout the world. The article will appear in October.

At the policy level, the ILO’s adoption of, and the global international campaign towards, a global social protection floor is a significant breakthrough in extending social protection to all. The Social Protection Programme is examining whether this might unintentionally dilute the focus, within the ILO and other agencies, on informal workers. The international campaign for universal health coverage (UHC) could lead to more access to health services by informal workers. However, the UHC campaign contains within it those who advocate for governments to use private insurance companies to implement the reforms. The Social Protection Programme is echoing concerns, raised at the Bangkok Health Policy Dialogue in January , that this can lead to the omission of preventive and primary health interventions.

Urban Policies Programme

Good Practice Documentation and Dissemination

WIEGO aims to document good policy and organizational practice that has resulted in more secure urban livelihoods, and to contribute to policy and academic debates of relevance to home-based workers, street vendors and waste pickers, and outputs are published as briefs or Working Papers. WIEGO’s three sector specialists (in home-based work, street vending and waste picking) have developed typologies of interventions by membership-based organizations (MBOs) of informal workers. This has proved valuable in understanding the different types of interventions among MBOs, and which cases to document. It can also facilitate cross-MBO learning.

Weekly News Round-Ups

WIEGO team members continue to track news on informal workers worldwide (in English, Spanish and Portuguese). These are posted on the WIEGO and  Inclusive Cities websites, and circulated to our Institutional Members, and other MBO partners, providing an up-to-date source of information about global trends. The most significant events, developments and updates are tweeted by sector specialists and communications staff.

Impact of Mega Events on the Urban Informal Workforce

An updated review of literature of the impact of mega events, with a particular focus on the working poor and South Africa’s experience of hosting the 2010 Soccer World Cup (Duminy with Luckett 2012) is available. The existing evidence suggests cities seldom, if ever, make money from hosting these events and offers interesting analyses of the extent of negative impacts. An examination of South Africa’s experience with the FIFA World Cup, written by Glen Robbins and intended for social actors, will soon be on the website as well. Read more.

In Brazil, Sonia Dias continues to assist StreetNet International’s World Class Cities for All Campaign (WCCA), in anticipation of the FIFA World Cup 2014 and Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. WIEGO is exploring further ways to assist StreetNet’s work.

Planning Curriculum on the Urban Informal Economy

An informal economy toolkit produced by Caroline Skinner is on the African Association of Planning Schools (AAPS) website. WIEGO is engaging with AAPS members about monitoring its implementation and incentivizing members to introduce this into their curricula.

Sonia Dias, WIEGO’s Waste Picker Sector Specialist, has devised a syllabus, “Waste, State and Development – Mainstreaming Gender and Participation.” It is being taught at the Government School of the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil, where she is also involved as a regular guest lecturer in two post-graduate courses – one at the Political Science Department and the other at the Administration School.

Urban Informal Economy Law Observatory

Megan Corrarino, a Yale Law School graduate, has drafted briefing notes on: international legal instruments that provide sources of rights and strategies for enforcement; on regional legal instruments that provide sources of rights and strategies for enforcement; on general principles of crafting a legal strategy; and on the right to information and to property as they relate to informal workers. She has also written recommendations for developing and disseminating the Law Observatory, on which WIEGO collates policies and laws that affect informal workers. Request access to this wiki

Caroline Skinner drafted a brief paper on the Warwick Junction legal case, one among five, for WIEGO’s submission on economic rights to the World Development Report. Sally Roever and Caroline Skinner have also liaised with MBO partners who are involved in legal challenges and legal education and advocacy projects.

Networking and Policy Engagement

  • Urban Policies institutional networking efforts in this period have concentrated on UN Habitat, which will host their biennial World Urban Forum in Naples in September. WIEGO has applied to host two networking events and a training event and has been engaging with the UN Habitat Professionals Forum (UNHPF), a group of international built environment professionals. Caroline and Alison Brown drafted three case studies of inclusive planning for a UNHPF publication.
  • Shalini Sinha has been working with the National Alliance for Social Security (NASS), India to develop their research efforts around social security for the informal sector in India.

Global Projects & Special Initiatives

Inclusive Cities Project

Reviewing the Impact

  • The Inclusive Cities (IC) project seeks to improve and secure the livelihoods of the urban working poor in the informal economy. A mid-term review of the multi-partner project revealed significant progress has been made by partners and the workers they serve. All partners reported significant efforts to influence municipal and national policies in order to secure legal recognition and access to public resources for informal sector workers. Most achievements resulted from a complex mix of actions and actors over many years. Partners asserted, however, that Inclusive Cities had been an important contributor, and they cited the Global Economic Crisis Studies and the participation of waste pickers at the United Nations climate change conferences as important examples of what the project has made possible. The review showed that Inclusive Cities is “more than the sum of its parts” and that it can increase its potency with a more focused approach and increased collective effort, especially through more systematic exchange of experiences and strategies. Read more.
  • A January 2012 appraisal of the benefits of belonging to an MBO by IC partners found that the most important impact, as perceived by members themselves, is an increase in both the amount and regularity of earnings from their primary work activities. In fact, 92 per cent of survey participants said membership is associated with improved income. Over half also identified access to health care, a safer or healthier working environment, and protection from harassment by authorities as tangible benefits of MBO membership. Another study that sampled 20 MBOs in 16 countries found they had leveraged on behalf of their members an estimated US $64 million in recent years from government programmes and schemes – resources that would not have been accessed by workers without the MBO’s involvement.

Exposure Dialogue Publication

For seven years, from 2004 to 2011, WIEGO engaged in a series of exposure dialogues with organizers from SEWA and economists from Cornell University (and elsewhere) designed to bridge differences in perspective on informal economy, labour, and poverty. A volume of the reflections written as part of the Cornell-SEWA-WIEGO Exposure Dialogue Programme, which saw mainstream economists, other researchers, and activists live with and work alongside informal workers in India, South Africa and Mexico, has been compiled and edited. The volume will be published by SEWA Academy later in 2012.

Communication & Dissemination

WIEGO Website

The WIEGO website (wiego.org) offers information on our network activities and more broadly on the informal economy. New pages highlighting special events, as well as new publications, videos and slideshows, news items and other resources are posted on an ongoing basis. From mid-November 2011 through end of March 2012, 7,934 documents were downloaded from the site. Monthly visits totalled 7,500 in April 2012.

Inclusive Cities Website

Our Communications Team continues to oversee management
of the Inclusive Cities website (inclusivecities.org). New content includes success stories developed through the mid-term review and the addition of briefing notes in multiple languages. The Inclusive Cities website has content in English, Portuguese and Spanish. Unique visits continue to climb – ranging now from 4,200–6,000 per month – as do the number of research downloads. In total, there were 10,462 downloads of Urban Policies research products from the Inclusive Cities site between April 2011 and March 2012.


In addition to this WIEGO Newsletter (produced twice annually in English and Spanish) and the Inclusive Cities Newsletter (produced three times annually in English, Portuguese and Spanish), WIEGO puts out a newsletter on our Occupational Health & Safety project and a newsletter for and about our Institutional Members and other MBOs of informal workers (both produced three times per year in four languages). We also support allies in the development of their newsletters and WIEGO now posts a weekly bulletin with project updates for the Inclusive Cities project partners and affiliates.

Translation and Interpretation

WIEGO is committed to increasing its ability to operate effectively as a multi-lingual network. The Communications Team arranges translation services (in Spanish, English, Portuguese and French) on a regular basis for hundreds of publications and presentations every year. Since January 2012, translation and/or interpretation services were provided to:

  • StreetNet International – translation of street vendor news
  • Informal Economy Monitoring Study training workshop
  • KKPKP – “We, SWaCH” video
  • IDWN – translation of e-mails and reports; interpretation during Skype meetings 
  • Central American Waste Picking Meeting in Nicaragua (February), Global Strategic Workshop for Waste Pickers in Pune (April), and the Conlactraho Congress in Mexico (May)
  • WIEGO Board teleconference in March and the WIEGO Bellagio workshop in June

Social Media

Twitter, Facebook and blogs allow us to share information rapidly with far-flung partners and members and to reach new audiences. The addition in 2012 of a Communications Officer, Brenda Liefso, to manage our social media activities has greatly enhanced our capacity in this arena. Social media is used to alert audiences to new website content as well as to informal economy news. Use of social media has also helped amplify the
“voice” of our members and partners by pushing through what they post.

WIEGO has also been using social media tools for the Inclusive Cities Project:

The Women’s Economic Empowerment has two blogs

New Publications & Resources

Bonner, Christine and Dave Spooner. 2012. “The Only School We Have. Learning from Organizing Experiences Across the Informal Economy.” WIEGO Organizing Series.

Bonner, Christine and Karin Pape. 2012. “The Rights of Domestic Workers: The Struggle for an ILO Convention.” Case Study for 2013 World Development Report. WIEGO.

Chen, Martha Alter. 2012. “The Informal Economy in Comparative Perspective.” In James G. Carrier, ed., A Handbook of Economic Anthropology, Second Edition. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

Chen, Martha Alter. 2012. “Global Recession and the Informal Economy: Evidence from Latin America and Beyond.” In Michael Cohen, ed. The Global Economic Crisis: Impacts and Responses. London, UK: Routledge.

Dias, Sonia M. 2012. “Waste and Development – Perspectives from the Ground.” 
Special Issue 6, Reconciling Poverty Eradication and Protection of the Environment, Facts Report. January.

Duminy, J. with T. Luckett. 2012. “Literature Survey: Mega-Events and the Working Poor, with a Special Reference to the 2010 FIFA World Cup." WIEGO (Urban Policies) Resource Document.

Fernández, Lucia and Frederico Parra. 2012. “The Legal Empowerment of Colombia’s Waste Picking Community.” Case Study for 2013 World Development Report. WIEGO.

Fernandez, Lucía. 2012. Waste-scapes: Territorial Dynamics and Recycling Externalities in Montevideo. WIEGO Working Paper Series No. 25.

Goulart, F. e F. Lima. 2012. Eficiência e Solidariedade nas Associações de Catadores de Materiais Recicláveis (Efficiency and Solidarity among Waste Pickers Organizations). Working Paper da WIEGO (Políticas Urbanas) No. 22.

Heintz, James and Francie Lund. 2012. “Welfare Regimes and Social Policy: A Review of the Role of Labour and Employment.” Paper prepared for the Fundación Carolina, Centro De Estudios Para América Latina y la Cooperación Internacional (CeALCI).

Herrera, J., M. Kuépié, C. Nordman, X. Oudin and F. Roubaud. 2012. Informal Sector and Informal Employment: Overview of Data for 11 Cities in 10 Developing Countries. WIEGO Working Paper No. 9.

Mather, Celia. 2012. “WIEGO Research Project: Informal Workers’ Organizing.” Solidarity Center Global Labor Program.

Miller, Shirley. 2012. “Analysis of the WIEGO Organization and Representation Data-Base (WORD).” (wiegodatabase.org) Report prepared for WIEGO.

Madhav, Roopa and Sankaran Kamala. 2012. “Informal Economy. Law and Policy Demands. Lessons from the India Pilot Study.” WIEGO/Solidarity Center.

Pape, Karin. 2012. “Informal is Normal.” Solidaritaet (German) and Solidarité (French) No. 1, February.

RedLacre. 2012. “Resultados Mapeo de Recicladores Centro-America y del Caribe 2011.” (Results of the Mapping of Waste pickers in Central America.) Bogota: RedLacre.

Robbins, Glen. 2012. “The Impact Mega Events on the Working Poor in Host Cities: Lessons for Social Actors from the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa.” WIEGO Policy Brief (Urban Policies).

Schamber, P. 2012. Proceso de Integración de los Cartoneros de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires. Del Reconocimiento a la Gestión de Centros Verdes y la Recolección Selectiva. (The Process of Integration of Waste Pickers in Buenos Aires: From Recognition to the Management of “Green Centers” and Selective Collection). Documento de Trabajo de WIEGO (Políticas Urbanas) No. 24.

Scheinberg, A. 2012. Informal Sector Integration and High Performance Recycling: Evidence from 20 Cities. WIEGO Working Paper (Urban Policies) No. 23.

Vainio, Antti. 2012. “Annotated Bibliography on Organizing Informal Workers.” WIEGO/Solidarity Center.

WIEGO or WIEGO-Supported Newsletters

Alliance of Indian Wastepickers Newsletter, February 2012 and May 2012.

Global Alliance of Waste Pickers Newsletter,  (English, Spanish, French and Portuguese).

IDWN News, February 2012.

Inclusive Cities Newsletters,  January 2012; May 2012.

Occupational Health & Safety Newsletter, February 2012; June 2012.

SWaCH Newsletter, January 2012.

Waste Picking in Africa Newsletter, April 2012, in English and French.