WIEGO Newsletter - February 2013

Covering the period July–December 2012

WIEGO e-News January-June 2012


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  • Celebrating SEWA’s 40 Years
  • Expanding WIEGO’s Publication Series
  • Analyzing the First Round of IEMS Data
  • Connecting with Co-operatives

Programme Updates

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

Global Projects & Special Initiatives

  • Securing Economic Rights for Informal Women Workers (FLOW project)
  • Special Initiatives: Exposure-Dialogue Programmes

Governance & Planning


  • Outreach
  • Communications
  • Publications, Resources & Reports


Celebrating SEWA’s 40 Years

In 1972, the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) was born as a labour union in Ahmedabad with just 600 head loaders, street vendors and home-based stitchers. As it turned 40 years old in 2012, SEWA had more than 1.4 million dues-paying members across many occupations in nine states of India. Responding to the needs of its members, SEWA has also developed a joint strategy of trade union rights-based struggles and developmental services and interventions. This has given rise to innumerable member-based organizations – over 100 of which are co-operatives – providing finance, training, capacity-building, research, health care, child care, and housing services.

Throughout 2012, SEWA held celebratory events to mark its four decades of achievement. The last of these was in December in Delhi. SEWA’s founder, Ela Bhatt, delivered an address, “Let the People’s Sector Flourish: The Journey of SEWA" at a celebratory dinner on December 11. In recalling the journey of SEWA’s formation, she said: “… a union is about coming together. Women need not come together against anyone, women needed to come together for themselves. By forming a union (SEWA) or a bond – the poor, women self employed affirmed their economic status, and thus generated their visibility and voice.”

The following day, December 12, SEWA and WIEGO co-hosted two events at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi. See The Power of Statistics under the Statistics Programme, and Launch of a Volume about the Cornell-SEWA-WIEGO Exposure-Dialogue Programme under Special Initiatives.

Expanding WIEGO’s Publication Series

The WIEGO Research Team, led by Caroline Skinner (Urban Policies Director), launched a new WIEGO Publication Series in July. The series now features 25 publications, most in English but an increasing number in Spanish and Portuguese, with more content being added regularly. Recent additions includeThe Informal Economy: Definitions, Theories and Policies by WIEGO’s International Coordinator Marty Chen, and two new Workers’ Lives profiles (on a headloader in India and a domestic worker in Mozambique) published in October. The series includes selected publications by WIEGO researchers or by WIEGO members or partners produced since 2008. Further, a set of Legal Briefs written by Megan Corrarino, a Yale Law School graduate, explore international and regional legal instruments that provide sources of rights – e.g. the right to information, property rights – and strategies for enforcing those rights for informal workers, as well as guidance on crafting legal strategy. The new legal briefing note series will be published in 2013, and will be available alongside the Organizing, Policy, Statistical and Technical Briefs on the WIEGO Briefs section of our website.

Analyzing the First Round of IEMS Data

In April 2012, with a research methods training workshop, WIEGO and our Inclusive Cities partners launched a major multi-disciplinary and multi-year study of the urban informal economy in 10 cities around the developing world. The first round of data collection for the Informal Economy Monitoring Study (IEMS) took place during the second half of 2012. In November, the WIEGO Technical Advisor Committee (TAC) to the IEMS convened a seven-day data analysis training workshop for the IEMS researchers at the Tala Game Reserve outside Durban, South Africa. The workshop, which had 46 participants, provided a chance for the researchers and the TAC to work jointly on analyzing the first round of data, collected between June-October in 10 cities, and on structuring the city reports. Since data is captured from participatory focus group discussions and through a survey questionnaire, much of the workshop’s focus was on how to integrate qualitative and quantitative data. Caroline Moser, an independent researcher and Professor Emeritus at the University of Manchester, is special advisor to the project. She and her colleagues Angelica Costa and Irene Vance brought their extensive experience in participatory methods to facilitate the training on qualitative data analysis.

As one participant remarked: “It was exciting to work with Round 1 of the data, to see the qualitative and quantitative data sets link together to tell a full story of what is happening with informal workers in specific sectors for each city.”

The IEMS, which is led by Research Director Imraan Valodia and supported by Research Officers Mike Rogan and Zoe Horn, will be used to raise the profile of the informal economy in local, national, and international policy debates. It will also provide reliable indicators of the state of the urban informal economy, and the impact of economic and social policies on workers in the informal economy across two points of time (2013 and 2014) At the conclusion of the workshop, each city team submitted their work plan to the IEMS Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). Advocacy and dissemination strategies for the coming year were discussed. The second round of research is planned for 2014. Read more about the IEMS.

Connecting with Co-operatives

2012 was the International Year of Co-operatives. In October, the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) organized an “Expo” of exhibitions, workshops and plenary events. WIEGO is an associate member of ICA. Through our Global Trade and Organization & Representation Programmes, with the support of our Operations and Communications Teams, WIEGO participated in this event alongside representatives from four strong co-operatives: Co-operativa Recicla Ourinhos of Brazil; Kenya’s Machakos Co-operative Union; the Health Co-operative (along with many other co-operatives) of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) of India; and SWaCH, a waste pickers’ co-operative in India.

Together, we hosted a booth that highlighted the work of all our organizations through visual displays and videos, and made available fact sheets on WIEGO’s perspective and on the four partner organizations. We also offered a workshop at which the worker representatives presented short case studies on their co-operative(s). As well, WIEGO organized a seminar, in collaboration with the Co-operative College located in Manchester, at which the college presented initial findings from research commissioned by WIEGO; the representatives of our partner co-operatives presented; and Simel Esim, a WIEGO member and the Chief of the Cooperative Branch at the International Labour Organization (ILO), presented on the ILO perspective.

Our goal in participating in the ICA Expo was to convey a message that co-operatives are an important vehicle for informal workers to improve their livelihoods, and that organizing allows for collective voice in the fight for recognition, political and economic power, social protection, gender equality and decent work. During this Expo, it became clear that the language of informal workers as workers is not generally part of the co-operative movement discourse. However, this event was a first step in raising awareness. It also initiated a promising relationship between the Co-operative College in Manchester, the Co-operatives Branch of the ILO and WIEGO.

See more on the ICA Expo and our partnering co-operatives.

Programme Updates

Organization & Representation (ORP)

ORP participated in cross-programmatic activities such as the International Co-operative Alliance Expo 2012 (see HIGHLIGHTS, above), and supported capacity building and the activities of partner organizations, detailed below.

Domestic Workers

In partnership with the International Union of Food and Allied Workers (IUF), WIEGO continues to provide ongoing support to the International Domestic Workers’ Network (IDWN) as it works to have C189 (the Convention for Decent Work for Domestic Workers) ratified in countries around the globe. By end December 2012, seven countries had ratified the ILO convention through their legislative processes. In order of ratification, they are: Uruguay, Philippines, Mauritius, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Italy (the latter four had yet to register with the ILO to complete the process at the end of December).

The funding for FLOW project (see GLOBAL PROJECTS, below) will help support a founding congress of IDWN, to be held October 25-27, 2013 in Uruguay. Membership-based domestic workers’ organizations continue to be recruited as formal members. The FLOW funding will also support the IDWN’s work to build the African network.

Networking in several regions continues. WIEGO’s Europe Advisor, Karin Pape is working with unions in Europe that are organizing domestic workers, especially those linked to the IUF, to encourage them to join the IDWN and to promote ratification of C189. In November, a two-day conference in Phnom Penh heralded the launch of the Cambodia Domestic Workers’ Network. In the UK, the IDWN has joined forces with domestic worker organizations and a supportive NGO to campaign against proposed changes to existing visa rules that will harm migrant domestic workers. Read more about these developments in the IDWN’s most recent (November) e-newsletter.

Activities also took place in Latin America and Africa in December. The IUF-IDWN, together with project partner CONLACTRAHO, carried out a three-day regional workshop in Lima, Peru on capacity building for Latin American domestic workers. WIEGO’s Latin America Advisor, Carmen Roca, gave a two-day training session on policy influence, which helped plan coordinated activities in the countries involved in the FLOW project. Domestic workers from the two Peruvian unions (SINTRAHOL and SINTRAHOGARP) participated, as well as those from Bolivia, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay. Participants in the session, which also featured presentations by the ILO, shared progress in their respective countries in the efforts towards ratification.

Forty worker leaders came together with the objective of enhancing leadership capabilities and economic empowerment in the sector. The meetings focused on unifying domestic workers in their efforts for ratification of C189, as well as improving national policies and legislation in the region. In Cape Town, South Africa, domestic workers’ unions in Africa participated in a conference jointly organized by the Global Network Africa and IDWN on various topics, including taking forward C189. Next, the IDWN held a workshop with the domestic workers’ unions to discuss the development, launch and activities of the IDWN Africa Regional Network. WIEGO’s Director of Organization & Representation Chris Bonner facilitated the workshop.

Home-Based Workers

Having determined that we need to know more about the situation of home-based workers and how they are/are not organized in regions outside of Asia, WIEGO has supported research and mapping in Latin America and Africa, capacity building in Asia and  organizing and networking in South-East Europe:

  • Home Net South Asia (HNSA) has undergone a re-strategizing and re-structuring exercise. WIEGO has now begun to plan a capacity building programme with HNSA, which will include work on strategic planning and sustainability through the Inclusive Cities Project (see below); capacity building with affiliates and exchange visits through the FLOW project. Other elements of support for HNSA include supply chain research through the Global Trade Programme and work on statistics with the Statistics Programme.
  • The Bulgarian Association of Homeworkers in South-East Europe organized a fair for own-account home-based workers to provide profile and present their products.
  • Networking continues among countries in the Balkan region, and WIEGO is supporting capacity building workshops with organizations in the network and mapping/organizing work in Albania. The first workshop was held in November in Petrich, Bulgaria with participants from Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and Albania and Bulgaria. An important focus of it was to provide support for the organization of home-based workers in Macedonia (DORA DOM) in their struggle for changes to national legislation following the recent ratification by Macedonia of the Home Work Convention.
  • Laura Morillo, a contract researcher, conducted field visits to Peru, Argentina, Brazil and Nicaragua in September/October to try to identify where there are home-based workers, where and how they are organized, which organizations are working with them, and to generally find out more about home-based workers in those countries and in particular in their capital cities. A comprehensive report was prepared and a follow-up plan will now be devised.

WIEGO is planning to explore the situation of home-based workers in selected countries in Africa; and to build relationships across continents through exchange visits initially, leading to an international meeting, if appropriate, at a later stage.

Street Vendors

StreetNet International celebrated its 10th anniversary with the inauguration of International Street Vendors Day, to be celebrated each November 14th. The day celebrated the contribution of street vendors to national development and drew attention to issues of particular concern. Read more about International Street Vendors Day.

WIEGO, through Karin Pape, supported the StreetNet delegation participating in the discussion on the Social Protection Floor at the ILC in June 2012. Earlier, our Social Protection Programme Director, Francie Lund, helped StreetNet develop its Platform. In a follow up activity, Karin represented WIEGO at a seminar on social protection, held in Zambia, organized by the Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC).

Waste Pickers

The WIEGO Waste Picker Team has been re-developing our strategies and, based on discussions at the Strategic Workshop held in Pune last April (see the workshop report), have agreed that the global programme for the rest of the year should concentrate on information exchange and sharing, while the regional programmes should concentrate on supporting existing groups to build their organizing and livelihood development capacities. New strategies for beyond 2013 are being developed following a planning meeting held in Boston in October.

Regional Activities

  • In Asia, India continues to be the most active country, with many groups of waste pickers, mostly formed under the auspices of NGOs. Current activities of the Alliance of Indian Wastepickers, a national alliance of more than 35 groups, include participation in a campaign for the right to social protection for all informal workers in India (Pension Parishad) and advocacy against child labour. Recent reports by the Chintan Group in Delhi explore the impact of waste-to-energy on waste pickers, and the failure of official solid waste management regimes to recognize the informal sector in India. The SWaCH cooperative in Pune and Pimpri, generally held up as a model to be emulated, has undergone some tumult in the Pimpri municipality, where contracts for private contractors in some parts of the city provide for better terms than those agreed to with SWaCH. SWaCH pulled out of the contract in protest. All the waste pickers have since been employed by the contractors. However, SWaCH is mounting a legal challenge regarding the failure of the contractors to implement minimum wages. See the latest SWaCH newsletter.
  • Africa: In Kenya the programme to build local groups and a national network, supported by WIEGO, is continuing and a new initiative to organize waste pickers in Nigeria is underway, following a mapping exercise that identified several groups. New support projects have been agreed upon with the South African Association of Waste pickers/groundWork on building organization on landfills in South Africa, and through the WIEGO Focal Cities coordinator, Dorcas Ansah, in Ghana. In the field, Kapita Tuwizana, a contracted consultant, recently visited Angola to try and identify waste picker groups, and held a capacity building workshop with groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Latin America: An important addition to WIEGO’s Waste Picker Team is the new coordinator for Latin America, Federico Parra, based in Bogota. The focus of his work in recent months has been on supporting the Asociación de Recicladores de Bogotá (ARB – the Recyclers Association of Bogota) to implement the Constitutional Court decision on the right of waste pickers to tender for contracts. After a particularly contentious period in December, ARB has been included in the city’s waste management programme – see the latest news. In Brazil, WIEGO Waste Picker Specialist Sonia Dias has been facilitating a programme on gender and waste pickers and has held meetings with women waste pickers and produced (with students from MIT) a review of literature in the field. A programme plan for the next two years in Latin America has been developed, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation agreed to provide funds for the programme.

External Relations & Representation

  • WIEGO’s Global Waste Picker Coordinator, Lucia Fernandez, participated in the Inter-American Development Bank meeting on Informal Sector in Washington in June in order to monitor and understand new mainstreaming forces interested in waste pickers. She also took part in a meeting around inclusive recycling and zero waste strategies, hosted by Coke and MIT, in Boston, and a Solar Cities meeting in New York in November.
  • In November, WIEGO participated in ExpoCatadores in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The third annual national and international gathering brought together hundreds of waste pickers from Brazil and from Africa, India and Latin America, as well as visitors and government leaders. Lucia Fernandez spoke at the main plenary on the opening day about the Global Alliance for inclusive recycling, the global threats that undermine waste picker livelihoods, and the ongoing struggles around the world (see her presentation slides). Learn more about WIEGO at ExpoCatadores.
  • Melanie Samson, WIEGO Waste Picker Coordinator for Africa, represented WIEGO at a workshop of Transwaste in Budapest. Our objective was to gain information on waste pickers in Eastern Europe and explore the possibility of setting up a small project to investigate the situation of waste pickers and their organizations in Eastern Europe. This project will go ahead in 2013.
  • Lakshmi Narayan of the KKPKP waste picker union in India participated in a workshop on behalf of WIEGO on extended producer responsibility (EPR) in Berlin November 2012. EPR is becoming an important issue for waste pickers to engage with, and WIEGO is planning to focus on this area of work in future to support waste pickers in their struggle.

Law & Informality

The Law & Informality project, which works to identify how laws impact informal workers and to support their efforts to change laws, was first implemented in India in 2007, and in Ghana, Peru and Thailand from 2010. The project is due for completion in January 2013, but Chris Bonner has been working with the project coordinators, Roopa Madhav and Kamala Sankaran, and WIEGO Team members to plan the proposed transformation of the project into a WIEGO programme, which will then have its own coordinator. To learn more, visit the Law & Informality microsite, which will undergo a redesign in 2013.

Collaboration with the Solidarity Center

WIEGO and the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center in the USA have been collaborating on a research project on “Organizing in the Informal Economy.” Marty Chen, Chris Bonner, and WIEGO Operations Manager Mike Bird have developed an agreement for the second round of research for this collaboration. Two projects are now in process: (1) a situational analysis of home-based, sub-contracted garment workers in Bangladesh, with Simeen Mahmud of the BRAC University as lead researcher; and (2) five case studies and an overview of collective bargaining in the informal economy, with Debbie Budlender, South Africa, as lead researcher. As StreetNet also has a collective bargaining research project particular to street vending, we are using a similar research/case study approach and the same principal researcher. The collective bargaining research involves different organizations/researchers in different countries and sectors: Georgian Transport Workers Union, National Petty Traders Union of Liberia (vendors); co-operatives in Minas Gerais, Brazil (waste pickers); SEWA in India (home-based bidi workers); and the Domestic Workers Union of Uruguay (Sindicato Unico de Trabajadoras Domésticas – SUDT).


A WIEGO Working Paper by WIEGO Research Coordinator Franҫoise Carré, An Approach to Organizations of Informal Workers in Developing and Developed Countries, was finalized and will be published in 2013. Franҫoise also played an advisory role on UCLA Multinational Research Project on Organizing in the Informal Economy.


The Power of Statistics

As part of SEWA’s 40th anniversary celebrations, SEWA and WIEGO co-organized a workshop on December 12 in Delhi called “The Power of Statistics.” The event showcased the joint efforts of SEWA, the WIEGO Network, and the International Expert Group on Informal Sector Statistics (known as “the Delhi Group”) to make women and men in the informal economy visible internationally as a first step towards integration into the mainstream economy. For many years, SEWA and the WIEGO network have been highlighting the power of statistics in making visible the importance of the informal economy and those working in it. In 2002, WIEGO partnered with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to produce Women and Men in Informal Economy: A Statistical Picture. This publication, co-authored by Marty Chen and Joann Vanek, Director of WIEGO’s Statistics Programme, provided the first statistical picture, using available national data, of the informal economy worldwide. The ILO will soon publish an updated version. The main findings from this updated publication, as well as the important milestones in the past many years, were featured at the December 12 workshop. Read more about the workshop and see the agenda and participants.

Manual to Assist in Measuring Informality

During 2012, ILO with the assistance of Joann Vanek, completed the final editing of the manual Measuring Informality: A Statistical Manual on the Informal Sector and Informal Employment, to be published by the ILO in 2013. The manual was prepared in cooperation with the International Expert Group on Informal Sector Statistics (the Delhi Group) and received funding from the Government of India. It is an important contribution to the field. It will assist countries in planning a labour statistics programme that includes the informal sector and informal employment, and will provide practical guidance on the technical issues involved with the development and administration of surveys used to collect relevant information, as well as the compilation, tabulation and dissemination of the resulting data.

Collaboration and Consultation

In recent months, Joann Vanek, together with WIEGO’s Research Coordinator, Francoise Carré, and other members of the WIEGO Team has:

  • initiated and maintained collaborative ties with international agencies working on issues on informal sector/informal employment
  • as members of the UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) Quality of Employment Expert Group,assisted with developing the agenda and materials for, including the preparation of a note on using proposed dimensions to measure informal employment in developed countries, and participated in the November 2012 meeting (Joann Vanek and Francoise Carré).
  • provided technical advice to the Inclusive Cities Project in the development of statistics on informal employment in urban areas and in specific cities, and on categories of informal workers (e.g. home-based workers, waste pickers and street vendors)
  • developed a Statistical Brief called A Guide to Obtaining Data on Types of Informal Workers in Official Statistics: Domestic Workers, Home-Based Workers, Street Vendors and Waste Pickers  (Joann Vanek, Marty Chen and G. Raveendran)
  • provided substantive editing and advice for reports in the WIEGO Publication Series
  • presented findings from the forthcoming publication Women and Men in the Informal Economy 2012: A Statistical Picture at the US Academy of Management Annual Meeting symposium on the informal economy (Francoise Carré)
  • finalized a chapter on “Employment Change and Economic Vulnerability in America,” written by, for an edited volume for the UK-based Resolution Foundation (Franҫoise Carré and James Heintz)

Global Trade

The Global Trade Programme was a partner in WIEGO’s participation in the ICA Expo, and is playing a central role in the FLOW project (see GLOBAL PROJECTS, below). One component of the FLOW project involves developing both leadership and business skills for informal women workers involved in fair trade in Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda. A cascading regimen of training will spread from country-level to fair trade groups and individual members, then to grass-roots level groups. In December, an initiation workshop was held in Kampala, Uganda. Another is planned for Ghana in early 2013. 

Fair Trade

  • Cooperation with World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) – the Director of WIEGO’s Global Trade Programme, Elaine Jones, has been asked to chair a Working Group that will take forward the resolution from the 2011 WFTO AGM to draft a gender policy for submission for the 2013 AGM.
  • Dissemination of MDG3 project research – WIEGO has been invited by Janet Momsen, a Senior Research Associate in the Oxford University Centre for the Environment and a Research Associate in the International Gender Studies Centre at Oxford University, to submit a chapter based on the publication Trading Our Way Up for a Handbook on Gender and Development.

Ethical Trade

  • In July, a meeting to further define the scope of the Ethical Trading Initiative’s Food and Farming category with a specific focus on the horticultural sector in Peru was attended by WIEGO’s OHS Programme Researcher, Laura Alfers, along with Mike Bird. During discussions in Bellagio in June, WIEGO decided to explore how this work could be coordinated with the Occupational Health and Safety project in Peru under the Social Protection Programme. The Ethical Trading Initiative will have its first tripartite visit to Peru for a multi-stakeholder engagement in March 2013.
  • WIEGO has commissioned Man-Kwun Chan, a fair trade and ethical trade specialist, to investigate contract labour in the garment industry. This will result in a “Global Status Report” on contract labour based on secondary research about what is known about contract labour in the industry and possible areas for further research.
  • The WIEGO on-line guide to What is Ethical and Fair Trade? is being updated and turned into a Technical Brief to go into WIEGO’s Publication Series.

Global Value Chains

The practical publication Making Agricultural Value Chains Work for Workers – a Practical Guide for Development Donors and Practitioners by Man-Kwun Chan has been turned into a Technical Brief in the new WIEGO Publications Series.
Coming out of the April 2012 supply chain mapping workshop held in partnership with HomeNet South Asia and HomeNet Pakistan in Lahore, Pakistan, follow-up research on mapping supply chains in South Asia is being commissioned in early 2013.

Social Protection

Global Social Protection Floor

Francie Lund, Director of WIEGO’s Social Protection Programme, worked with StreetNet International in developing a booklet for advocacy around the global social floor: while essentially supportive of the idea of the floor, it also identifies specific needs and demands of informal workers in the area of social protection. 

WIEGO was involved in two workshops in October regarding social protection and the global social floor in the southern African region. Both workshops were supported by Frederich Ebert Stiftung. Francie presented at the workshop on gender and social protection, held with the Southern African Development Community (SADC); Karin Pape presented at the workshop held with Southern African Trade Union Coordinating Council (SATUCC).

Occupational Health & Safety (OHS)

WIEGO’s OHS project is operating in five countries – Brazil, Ghana, India, Peru and Tanzania – and has developed different facets, depending on the needs and the partners in each country. Recent activities include:

  • In July, a Health Policy Dialogue in Accra, Ghana identified ways to help kayayei (headload porters, most of whom are marginalized migrants) gain better access to health services, and to help integrate these workers into the Ghanaian National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). This led to a registration drive where more than 1,000 kayayei signed up to the NHIS – and a tracking study will be done of impacts. Policy dialogues in Accra have been particularly successful because the informal workers have been trained how to speak to the right people at the right time, and to form a clear sense of their objectives and demands. Accra has been identified by WIEGO as a focal city for its work, and OHS has been integrated into WIEGO’s workplan for the city.
  • In Lima, Peru (also a focal city for WIEGO), WIEGO collaborated with the OHS project’s Peruvian team – Anita Luján and her colleagues from the Consorcio por la Salud, Ambiente y Desarollo (ECOSAD) – and WIEGO’s Latin American Regional Advisor, Carmen Roca, to host an Occupational Health & Safety for Informal Workers event in September. The event attracted over 90 people, many of them informal workers – waste pickers (recicladores), newspaper vendors (canellitas), and market porters (estibadores) – who had been involved in the research stages of the project. A representative of each group offered insight into the health challenges of workers in their area. The event signalled the start of the dissemination phase of the OHS project in Peru, which will entail more targeted multi-stakeholder workshops, platforms for dialogues and seminars aimed at policymakers. WIEGO will also work to incorporate OHS for informal workers into OHS courses in universities, and into the Voice project (see below).
  • In India, where WIEGO’s OHS partners are the waste pickers’ union KKPKP and SEWA, much of the work has concentrated on the design of ergonomically-appropriate equipment for informal workers. In 2013, SEWA will host a national workshop and hopes to get a government subsidy to fund equipment.
  • In Salvador, Brazil, Vilma Santana and her colleagues at the Federal University of Bahia's Institute of Public Health hosted a national symposium in October entitled “Primary Health Care and the Workers’ Health - Possibilities and Challenges for Informal Workers’ Safety and Health Care.”
  • Vicky Kanyoka of the International Union Federation (IUF) and IDWN reports that OHS issues have featured prominently in recent tripartite debates held in Tanzania on the ratification of the ILO Domestic Workers’ Convention (C189). In particular it has prompted discussions about how the Occupational Safety and Health Authority (OSHA) could work more closely with the Labour Inspectorate.

To learn more about work in these countries, please visit the newly redesigned OHS microsite on the WIEGO website.

Expert Meeting
In November, WIEGO held an Expert Meeting in Durban, South Africa on Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) for Informal Workers. The purpose was to draw expert advice on WIEGO’s advocacy and dissemination strategy. Attendees included representatives from the International Commission on Occupational Health; African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town; Asiye eTafuleni; Federal University of Bahia, Brazil; KKPKP; SEWA; University of KwaZulu-Natal; USAID; and WIEGO. This was a small but significant gathering of top thinkers in the fields of OHS and public health, and an opportunity to do some deep thinking about how to move towards a more inclusive OHS that includes informal workers and their workplaces. Read more. Also in Durban, a logical framework analysis workshop with Asiye eTafuleni (AeT), has led to the development of an OHS project in the Warwick Junction area, which is being built into future WIEGO plans.

The Social Protection Programme is planning how to integrate OHS into other WIEGO programme work when the OHS project ends in June 2014.

The Voice Project in Latin America
A WIEGO project called “Strengthening the Voice of the Working Poor in Social Policy Decisions in Latin America,” which operates in Peru and Mexico and is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), has been very active. In Peru, a multi-sector group of government officials, led by the newly created Ministry for Development and Social Inclusion, met in August with informal workers leaders to discuss the workers’ situations and needs. The Board on Informal Employment, a group of NGOs and academics close to WIEGO projects, also participated at the meeting, which WIEGO chaired. Opportunities for piloting daycare and old-age support programs in prioritized districts of Lima were discussed, and other possibilities are being followed up in bilateral meetings with respective government sectors (Labor, Health, Industry - SMEs; Development and Social Inclusion; and the Popular Health Insurance Scheme, SIS). Unfortunate events relating to the relocation of the Lima Wholesale Market interrupted government involvement as protests turned violent. However, a signed agreement between the City and street traders that provides access to a new location (read more) has ended the discord and re-opened the channels for communication.

A remarkable event took place in September when WIEGO implemented the first Exposure Dialogue Programme (EDP) in Peru. Participants – primarily government officials, and joined by Francie Lund – spent two nights and three days living with and working alongside market porters, market vendors, newspaper vendors, street vendors, and and waste pickers. The host workers belong to informal worker organizations involved with WIEGO on the Voice project since its inception.

In Mexico City, a Capacity Building Programme is in full swing. Informal workers from six different federations participated in face-to-face and online training sessions through the Institute for Economic Research of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) – the participants were proud to be studying at a graduate school of the UNAM. The five-month training program was similar to one delivered first in Peru, and included modules focused on the contributions of informal workers to the economy, statistics on informal workers and their socio-economic profiles, social protection, and advocacy and surveillance on social policy. Domestic workers, market vendors, newspaper vendors, shoeshiners, and street vendors who took part have requested more courses in the near future.

Urban Policies

A vital component of the Urban Policies Programme’s mandate is the coordination and dissemination of research findings, data analysis, and good practice documentation. This includes managing the production and promotion of new and updated publications in the WIEGO Publication Series (see Highlights).

Integration on the World Stage

In September, WIEGO’s Urban Policies’ and Inclusive Cities’ teams used the UN-Habitat’s World Urban Forum 6 (WUF6) in Naples as an opportunity to reach an international audience with a strong core message: that integrating informal workers into urban planning can improve cities for everyone. The delegation staffed an exhibition booth, distributed a wealth of materials and hosted events. During one event, WIEGO launched an interactive USB resource containing visually engaging content and documentation from across the informal economy and targeted at built environment professionals, in and outside the state, and policymakers. Read more about WIEGO at WUF6.

WIEGO is also committed to being a lead partner in UN-Habitat’s flagship campaign of partners, World Urban Campaign. This will assist in disseminating WIEGO messages and outputs.

Collaboration with the Global Urbanist

WIEGO collaborated on an Urban Livelihood Series from October to December with the Global Urbanist, an online publication with ties to the London School of Economics. WIEGO authors contributed these articles (in order of their appearance):

Including Informality in the Curriculum

Urban planners and built environment professionals are critical to “city making,” but are often ill-equipped to plan for informality. Since the informal economy provides livelihoods for the majority of urban residents of developing countries, understanding informality will be crucial to future generations of urban planners and policymakers. Thus Urban Policies is developing and beginning to institutionalize a curriculum on the urban informal economy. Since being posted on the AAPS website in August 2011, an informal economy educational toolkit created by Caroline Skinner has been downloaded over 500 times.

In December, WIEGO delivered a workshop on Planning and Informality in Durban, South Africa. The workshop included a visit to Warwick Junction, a well-developed transport hub and vibrant marketplace where worker activism has led to beneficial urban planning. Discussions considered how planning curricula can incorporate training that leads to success stories where infrastructure is designed to enable livelihoods. The Association of African Planning Schools took part in the workshop.  

Also, WIEGO’s Waste Specialist Sonia Dias has devised a syllabus, “Waste, State and Development – Mainstreaming Gender and Participation,” now being used in the graduate course Social and Environmental Sciences at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil. Students who had previously studied the syllabus in the same university’s Government School asked Sonia to form a study group on the issue of informal work and urbanization. The group meets once a month and is called “Cities, Informal Workers and Organizing.”

Global Projects & Special Initiatives

Securing Economic Rights for Informal Women Workers (FLOW project)

WIEGO has launched a multifaceted project with the support of a Funding Leadership and Opportunities for Women (FLOW) grant from the Government of the Netherlands. Our project, “Securing Economic Rights for Informal Women Workers,” seeks to strengthen the organizing and leadership capacity of women working in informal employment – specifically domestic workers, home-based workers, street vendors and waste pickers – so that they gain economic self-reliance and increase their participation in politics, governance and management.

This work builds on the previous MDG3-funded project Women’s Economic Empowerment. Developed with WIEGO's partner networks and organizations, it will involve as many as 44 countries and has six distinct elements, detailed on the website. Among the goals is to improve communications among all key players to enhance sharing of lessons learned, networking, and linking geographically or thematically. In November, project coordinators for WIEGO attended a meeting in The Hague, which offered an excellent opportunity to discuss implementation, ongoing monitoring and evaluation, and how best to facilitate linkages between our project and other grantees’ projects. The project is being coordinated by Global Projects Manager Sofia Trevino.

Inclusive Cities

Sustainability and Organizational Development

WIEGO is working with many of its Inclusive Cities partners to help them establish long-term funding sustainability and build organizational capacity. In recent months, this work has involved strategic communications planning for SEWA Bharat in India, assisting AeT in South Africa with using logical framework analysis as a planning and strategic tool, helping the IDWN to articulate its objectives, and providing some basic training and practical advice on using communications vehicles for five MBOs in Latin America. WIEGO plans to create a new publication series, the Sustainability Series, to bring together existing and new manuals and workshop materials that will offer practical guidance to organizations and help build their capacity.

Special Initiatives

Launch of a Volume about the Cornell-SEWA-WIEGO Exposure Dialogue Programme

Almost a decade ago, a group of Cornell economists began to explore, with SEWA and WIEGO, whether it was possible to bridge the perspectives of mainstream economists and ground level activists on economic policy and methods. Between 2004 and 2011, the group undertook five Exposure-Dialogues during which participants – including  ground-level activists, economists and other social scientists – lived and worked for a few days and nights with women who earned their livelihoods in the informal economy. These firsthand experiences tested economic theory against the reality of informal employment. Technical dialogues followed each exposure. These EDPs took place  in Ahmedabad, India (2004 and 2008); Durban, South Africa (2007 and 2011); and Oaxaca, Mexico (2009).

After each Exposure and Dialogue, members of the group further examined their experiences through written reflections, both personal and technical. SEWA Academy, the training and capacity building wing of SEWA, has now produced a volume of reflections, written by the participants, titled Bridging Perspectives: The Cornell-SEWA-WIEGO Exposure and Dialogue Programme on Labour, Informal Employment and Poverty. These writings highlight a remarkable process of personal enlightenment and group discourse on informality, poverty, gender and economics. The volume was launched at the December 12 event in New Delhi. (See the agenda and participants.)

Exposure Dialogue Programme Focused on Law & Informality

With Namrata Bali of SEWA Academy and two human rights lawyers at Harvard University, WIEGO’s Marty Chen has planned and raised funds for the first in a new series of Exposure Dialogues on Law & Informality. These will engage human rights judges, legal advocates, and activists around issues of informality relating to employment, settlements, and citizenship. The first Exposure Dialogue will be held in Ahmedabad, India early in 2013 and will focus specifically on the legal framework and system from the perspective of street vendors and waste pickers. Judges, lawyers, and activists from five countries – Colombia, Ghana, India, Peru, and South Africa – as well as legal experts from other countries have been invited to spend two days and nights with a street vendor or waste picker host, followed by personal and technical reflections and a policy dialogue with judges from Gujarat, India.

Governance & Planning

Internal Strategic Review

WIEGO recently web published the report from the Strategic Review & Planning Workshop, held in Bellagio, Italy in June 2012. Work continues on finalizing the Internal Strategic Review building on  the outcomes of the Bellagio workshop, specifically on refining our theory of change and policy stances; restructuring our capacity build work and focus cities initiative; developing a strategy for a law programme;  revising our strategy for support to specific sectors of workers.  Also, the relevance to WIEGO’s work of related conceptual frameworks – power, solidarity economy, the formal-informal divide, and risk, uncertainty, and crises  – are also being explored.

WIEGO Team Meeting and Strategy Planning

In October, the WIEGO Team gathered for its annual retreat in Boston, USA. The meeting provided a vital opportunity to discuss face-to-face our ongoing work, and to strategize for the future. The Team reviewed the draft Theory of Change, the updated Policy Stances, the Law Programme strategic plan, and the Focal City Initiative (deciding to merge the Accra and Lima Reference Groups). The strategy for Capacity Building within MBOs was also considered, and it was decided that since this work takes different forms and cuts across all programmes, WIEGO should form a Capacity Building Team comprised of its Programme Directors.

Also at our Team Retreat, to complete the Internal Strategic Review process, the Programme Team pledged to complete strategic plans for their respective programmes/projects by early 2013; to further develop our Theory of Change; and to hone our Policy Messages. These will be reviewed by the WIEGO Board at its next meeting (see below). After the Board meeting, the International Coordinator, Programme Directors, Global Projects Director, and Operations Manager will meet to make any final revisions to the plans and to further determine how to build on the cross-programme overlap and synergy between the various plans, and how to package the various plans for the WIEGO fund-raising drive that will take place in 2013-14.

Meet the WIEGO Team here.

WIEGO Board and Finance Committee

The WIEGO Board met on July 30 and November 6. During these meetings, the Board accepted the Finance Committee’s recommendation that, given the uncertainties in the global banking sector, an account with a second financial institution should be opened to hold a portion of WIEGO’s long-term funds. This will both enhance WIEGO’s financial security and allow us to earn a better rate of interest for some of the funds. Following the recommendation of the Finance Committee, the Board approved the Annual Financial Statements and the Audit Findings Report. This was the first time that our auditors had applied the more stringent tests that come with WIEGO's status as a registered charity, and although the audit turned up a few minor areas for improvement, we received an unqualified opinion. The Finance Committee also considered an updated risk register, following an assessment by the Operations Team of the organizational risks faced by WIEGO. One important step taken over the past three years to reduce our operating risks has been to build up the level of the reserves held by WIEGO, which are now near an optimal level.

The next meeting of the WIEGO Board will take place in Manchester, UK from February 28-March 1, 2013.



Contributing to the World Development Report 2013 on Jobs

WIEGO was commissioned to produce a set of cases studies with a synthesis report on representative voice and economic rights of informal workers for the World Development Report (WDR) 2013, which focused on the topic “Jobs.” Marty Chen was also commissioned to undertake a peer review of the draft WDR 2013, and to speak on the closing panel of a conference on the WDR 2013 entitled “Labor and Development” at Colombia University in October 2012. The case studies written by WIEGO team members and partners and featured in brief in the WDR 2013 include:

  • Self-Employed Women’s Association of India, including its role in helping to build and strengthen organizations of informal workers around the world (Marty Chen)
  • National Policy and Law for Street Vendors in India (Arbind Singh)
  • Legal Cases for Street and Market Vendors in Durban, South Africa (Mahendra Chetty and Caroline Skinner)
  • Constitutional Court Judgments for Waste Pickers in Bogotá, Colombia (Lucia Fernandez and Federico Parra)
  • Campaign for an International Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers (Chris Bonner and Karin Pape)

Read the synthesis report containing these papers: Urban Informal Workers: Representative Voice & Economic Rights. See the World Development Report 2013.

Engagement with the US State Department

Marty Chen and WIEGO Board Chair Renana Jhabvala serve on the Labor Working Group, which is part of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society. In 2012, the group engaged in discussions regarding the global jobs crisis, youth unemployment, and informal employment. In July, Marty was invited by the US State Department to lead, via video, a session on the informal economy in a course for Labor Officers. Joann Vanek attended a conference in Washington, co-organized by the US State Department and Gallup, on “Evidence and Impact: Closing the Gender Data Gap.” For the conference, Joann and Marty were asked to provide imput on the power of statistics by the person preparing Hillary Clinton’s speech; during that speech, Clinton referred to Ela Bhatt as one of her “personal heroes.” As well, Barbara Shailor, Special Representative for International Labor Affairs at the US State Department, asked Marty to prepare talking points for her to use at a conference on Women’s Economic Empowerment in Cambodia, co-organized by Hillary Clinton and Minister Phavi (who hosted the WIEGO delegation to Cambodia in 2008).

European Development Days Conference Panel

The European Commission and WIEGO co-hosted a high-level panel on “The Perspective of the Working Poor in the Informal Economy” at the European Development Days conference in Brussels in October. This panel of academics, practitioners, and policymakers discussed which policies are needed to create inclusive growth for the working poor in the informal economy.

Panellists included Marty Chen (International Coordinator, WIEGO); Renana Jhabvala (National Coordinator, SEWA and Chair, WIEGO Board);  Federico Parra (Latin America Waste Picker Coordinator, WIEGO); Tony Addison (Deputy Director, UN WIDER). Heidi Hautala, Minister for International Development, Finland, provided a policy response. Kristian Schmidt, Director, Human Development Department, Directorate General for Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid, of the European Commission, was the moderator.

Advice on Integrating Urban Informal Workers into Urban Plans

Caroline Skinner provided insight into the informal economy to the India, Brazil, South Africa Human Settlements Group/Cities Alliance when she offered “Integrating the Informal Economy into Urban Plans: Lessons Learned from Warwick Junction, Durban, South Africa” in July. This excellent dissemination opportunity was attended by high level bureaucrats from ministries in the three countries. Caroline has also been engaging with South African Local Government Association (SALGA) about their street vendor policy, and has been advising Cape Town’s spatial planning department about how to include the informal economy and street traders in their local economic development monitoring system.

Course on the Informal Economy at Harvard Kennedy School

From September-December each year, Marty Chen teaches a course entitled “The Informal Workforce in a Global Economy” at the Harvard Kennedy School. In 2012, WIEGO team members Franҫoise Carré, Lucía Fernández, James Heintz, Sally Roever, and Joann Vanek shared their expertise as guest lecturers.


In addition to managing the editing and production of numerous publications, WIEGO’s Communications Team maintains both the WIEGO website and Inclusive Cities website.  Web Coordinator Patricia Carney and a team of web technical specialists have been working in recent months to improve the functionality of WIEGO’s site, designed as a go-to resource on the informal economy. This included enhancing the search function for the more than 3,000 publications, news stories (from sources around the globe) and other resources on the informal economy that are posted on wiego.org.

Redesigned Inclusive Cities Website and Blog

As part of our role in Inclusive Cities (IC), WIEGO manages the IC website and blog. Both have been redesigned in recent months – a project led by Communications Officer Brenda Liefso and Communications Manager Demetria Tsoutouras. In addition to a fresh and appealing look, designed to attract and retain more users, the website (inclusivecities.org) is now easier to navigate, with publications and resources divided into clear categories, targeted more specifically to three audience groups: workers and organizers; academics and researchers; and urban planners and policymakers. To help unify partner news and content, the Inclusive Cities Blog has been integrated and become much more active. It features stories around events and our partners about once a week and gets high numbers of traffic – between 6-8,000 visits a month.

Social Media

WIEGO also disseminates vital information and stories – and share our partners’ news – through these social media channels:

  • Twitter (@wiegoglobal): We now have 357 followers from across the international development, women's organizations and urban planning fields.
  • Facebook – (wiegoglobal): The number of people who belong to our Facebook community nearly doubled this year and is now 434.

WIEGO’s Klout Score – the measure of online influence in response to user engagement across social media platforms – has risen from 11 to a steady 50-52 in recent months. This demonstrates a marked improvement in both our level of activity on social media and its influence.
WIEGO also manages social media tools for the Inclusive Cities Project:

Publications, Resources & Reports

Alfers, Laura. 2011. Occupational Health and Safety and Domestic Work: A Synthesis of Research Findings from Tanzania and Brazil. WIEGO. (Also available in FrenchPortugueseSpanish and Swahili.)

Alfers, Laura. 2012. A Case Study from Ghana of Good Practice in Developing OHS for Informal Workers. Report presented at the ICOH International Conference on Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises, 18-21 October, 2011, Accra, Ghana.

Bali, Namrata, Martha A. Chen and Ravi Kanbur. 2012. Bridging Perspectives: The Cornell-SEWA-WIEGO Exposure and Dialogue Programme on Labour, Informal Employment and Poverty. Ahmedabad: SEWA Academy.

Bonner, Chris, Barbro Budin and Pape Karin. 2012. “Die ILO-Konvention: Gute Arbeit für Hausarbeiterinnen.“ (In English: “The ILO Convention: Decent Work for Domestic Workers, More than a Promise?”) Luxemburg: Gesellschaftsanalyse und Linke Praxis, Vol. 2.

Castel-Branco, Ruth. 2012. Organizing the Patience Industry. WIEGO Workers’ Lives Series No. 3. (Also available in Portuguese.)

Chan, Man-Kwun. 2012 Making Agricultural Value Chain Programmes Work for Workers: A Practical Guide for Development Donors and Practitioners. WIEGO Technical Brief (Global Trade) No. 4.

Chen, Martha Alter. 2012. The Informal Economy: Definitions, Theories and Policies. WIEGO Working Paper No. 1

_________. 2012. WIEGO Strategic Review & Planning Workshop Report. Report from the June 2012 workshop in Bellagio, Italy.

Chen, Martha Alter and G. Raveendran. 2012. “Urban Employment in India: Recent Trends and Future Prospects.” Margin, special issue on informality for the National Council for Applied Economics Research in India.

Chikarmane, P. 2012. Integrating Waste Pickers into Municipal Solid Waste Management in Pune, IndiaWIEGO Policy Brief (Urban Policies), No 8.

Crocker, Sophie. Forthcoming. “Urban Policy and the Effect of Migration and Modernisation on Indigenous Papuan Market-Women in Jayapura, Indonesia.” WIEGO Working Paper (Urban Policies).

Fernández, Lucía. 2012.Paisajes-basura: Dinámicas y Externalidades Territoriales del Reciclaje en Montevideo, Uruguay. WIEGO Working Paper No. 25.

Lavinas, Lena, Hildete Pereira de Mello and Paula Martins. Forthcoming. “Brazil: Innovative Approaches to Curb Informality and Enhance Labour Protection.” (In English, Spanish, and Portuguese.) WIEGO Working Paper.

Lund, Francie. 2012. “Children, Citizenship and Child Support: The Child Support Grant in South Africa.” In Szreter, S. and K. Breckenridge (Eds.) Registration as Recognition: Documenting the Person in World History. Oxford University Press.

_________.  2012. “Work-Related Social Protection for Informal Workers.”International Social Security Review, Vol. 65, No. 4, October.

Pape, Karin. 2012. “Menschenwürdige Arbeit für Hausangestellte.” Migration und Integration, 3, September.

___________. 2012. “Sus au Travail Informel!” SOLIDAR Suisse, Research Paper.

Randhir, Kumar. 2012. The Regularization of Street Vending in Bhubaneshwar, India: A Policy Model. WIEGO Policy Brief (Urban Policies) No. 7.

Sinha, Shalini and Sally Roever. 2012 (Spanish translation of 2011 English version). La Política Nacional de Vendedores Ambulantes, Urbanos de la India. Nota de Política de WIEGO (Políticas Urbanas) No. 2.

Spooner, Dave and Celia Mather. 2012. Promoting the ILO Home Work Convention (C177) and the Rights of Homeworkers: A Manual for Workers’ Educators and Facilitators. Produced by the Global Labour Institute for HomeNet South Asia.

Vanek, Joann, Martha Chen and Govindran Raveendran. 2012. A Guide to Obtaining Data on Types of Informal Workers in Official Statistics: Domestic Workers, Home-Based Workers, Street Vendors and Waste Pickers. WIEGO Statistical Brief No. 6.

Vryenhoek, Leslie. 2012. First Global Strategic Workshop of Waste Pickers: Inclusive Solid Waste Management. Report on the April 2012 workshop in Pune, India.

________________ 2012. Headstrong: Profile of a Headloader in Ahmedabad, India. WIEGO Workers’ Lives Series.


WIEGO and other WIEGO-Supported Newsletters

IDWN News, No. 6, October 2012; No. 7, November 2012.

Inclusive Cities Newsletter, September 2012. (Available in English, Portuguese and Spanish.)

Occupational Health & Safety Newsletter, October 2012. (Available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish).

SWaCH Newsletter, No. 5, November 2012.

WIEGO Newsletter for Membership-Based Organizations, August 2012 and December 2012: available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

WIEGO e-News, August 2012. (Available in English and Spanish).