WIEGO Newsletter - January 2012

Covering the period July 2011 - December 2011

WIEGO e-News July - December 2011

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Governance & Financial News | Sector News | Programme Updates
Global Projects | Dissemination 


WIEGO’s Content-Rich New Website

In August, WIEGO launched a newly revamped and expanded website. The website was redesigned to better organize our growing collection of publications, news and resources, and so that visitors could more easily navigate the site and find information. More than 1,000 documents are posted to www.wiego.org.

The website is really two sites in one. One side features the who, what, why, where, and how of the WIEGO network. The other half of the website is a rich resource on the Informal Economy, featuring pages on the history of the concept; statistical methods and data; the links between informality, poverty, growth, and crises; and specific occupational groups. Most recently, new sections on Policies & Programmes and on Organizing & Organizations were added to the Informal Economy half of the website; and two new microsites – one on a Law & Informality project and the other on a China-India Comparative Labour Markets project – were created.

Throughout this newsletter, links will lead you to web pages on the new site. We hope you will explore what the site offers, and would welcome any feedback. Please note the site is fully searchable via the search bar on the top right corner.

Connections in Accra, Ghana

WIEGO’s choice of Accra as the location of its annual Board and Team retreats in October led to two significant developments for WIEGO’s work in that country: an invitation to lend assistance as local development plans are created, and a decision to integrate and expand the set of WIEGO projects on the informal economy in Ghana. Read the full story.

Governance and Financial News

Charitable Status

In August 2011, WIEGO was granted charity status by the Charities Commission of England and Wales. This is a major milestone that will make WIEGO eligible for additional sources of funding and will increase our credibility with funders that recognize this charity status as equivalent to non-profit or charity status in their own countries.

Board Meeting

At its October meeting in Accra, the Board focused much attention and discussion on WIEGO’s Internal Strategic Review, which is designed to:

  • make explicit a set of assumptions about the future of the informal economy, and the key trends and developments on which these were based
  • reconsider WIEGO’s functional combination of the three V’s, and how to strengthen the synergies between them to contribute more effectively to WIEGO’s goals
  • reconsider WIEGO’s focus on certain groups of workers, taking into account WIEGO’s assumptions about the future of the informal economy
  • examine WIEGO’s management and team structures in relation to future WIEGO work (including development of a plan for a smooth transition and succession in relation to eventual retirement of founders and long term staff)

Board discussions in Accra provided an opportunity to further explore these questions, with an eye to what gaps in our understanding must be addressed in order to make informed decisions about WIEGO’s future. A detailed plan around each question was established to pave the way for a strategic retreat be held in June 2012 in Bellagio, Italy.

Financial reports were another subject of focus for the Board meeting. It was reported that WIEGO’s financial records had been passed by external auditors, and that WIEGO has established sound financial systems. These are being enhanced to ensure funds are appropriately used, with ongoing improvements to monitoring expenditures against budgets, cash flow analysis, and timeliness of reporting.

Development of the WIEGO Network

As of October 2011, WIEGO had 14 Institutional Members and 136 Individual Members from 29 countries. WIEGO is currently implementing a revised membership strategy for expanding our institutional members to include more regional and international federations of membership-based organizations (MBOs). In the first phase, national and regional affiliates of StreetNet International have been invited to become institutional members of WIEGO.

Sector News

Domestic Workers

In the wake of the major victory that saw Convention 189: Decent Work for Domestic Workers adopted at the June 2011 International Labour Conference (ILC), WIEGO continues to support domestic workers in their fight for rights. The challenge now is to build on the momentum of the Convention campaign to sustain and expand grassroots organizations, national and regional networks and to develop the democratic structures of the International Domestic Workers’ Network (IDWN). WIEGO will continue to support, as requested: the campaign for ratification and enforcement of C189; further development of the structure and constitution of the IDWN as a global MBO; fund raising; the creation of educational materials; and regional network building.
Though not a WIEGO initiative, the formation of a Research Network for Domestic Worker Rights, with the participation of IDWN, was a significant achievement. Officially launched in June 2011, the network consists of researchers who have been working collaboratively with IDWN. Learn more about the Research Network for Domestic Worker Rights.

Home-Based Workers

WIEGO continues to provide capacity-building support to help home-based worker organizations develop into democratic MBOs with solid structures. In recent months, this work has included a joint sharing meeting with HomeNet South Asia and HomeNet Southeast Asia in July 2011. The meeting resulted in a clearer assessment of the regional HomeNets, more bi-lateral cooperation and coordination, and an improved understanding of MBO development. WIEGO recently provided consultancy services for HomeNet Nepal on the transition to a democratic worker structure, leading to completion of its constitutional reorganization into an MBO governance structure. WIEGO has also met with HomeNet Pakistan about undertaking a similar MBO development process. Other engagement includes working with HomeNet South Asia to pilot the mapping of supply chains of home-based workers in Pakistan and Nepal.

WIEGO is providing support for the development of HomeNet South East Europe through project development and fund raising assistance, as well as direct support for initial activities in Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, Macedonia, and Albania.

The regional HomeNets are committed to reaching out to home-based workers in other regions, and WIEGO is supporting this. An interim coordinating committee has been established and Terms of Reference developed for a part-time global coordinator.

In August, WIEGO published a technical briefing note on Mixed-Use Zoning and Home-Based Production in India, written by Matt Nohn.

Street Vendors

In July, WIEGO participated in a workshop, “Organisation of Workers in the Informal Economic Relations in Eastern Europe/Central Asia,” jointly organized by StreetNet International and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in Georgia. The workshop, attended by ITUC affiliates and informal worker unions and associations from across southeastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, served to highlight the large number of informal workers in the region as well as the sometimes severe political constraints on organizing. WIEGO's Regional Advisor for Europe, Karin Pape, will be following up on the outcomes of the meeting and supporting StreetNet in its endeavours to expand into the region. As well, this has led to the translation into Russian of the six resource books on Organising in the Informal Economy, produced in partnership with StreetNet.

In Brazil, WIEGO has been working with StreetNet to identify researchers for mapping street vendor organizations and to build relationships in Brazil with different networks to support StreetNet’s World Class Cities for All Campaign in advance of the World Cup and Olympics in Brazil.

Waste Pickers

Through its Organization and Representation Programme and through the Inclusive Cities Project, WIEGO provides support for waste picker organizations in different regions/countries, global coordination and a base for global networking activities. At a recent Global Steering Committee meeting, an action plan was developed that included plans to develop a global website for waste pickers: www.globalrec.org.

Recently, WIEGO’s waste picker team developed a common vision to guide its work across all regions and internationally.

In Africa, where WIEGO has a regional waste picker coordinator, organization building support was recently provided in Kenya and South Africa; support was also given to Senegal waste pickers facing landfill closure. In September, WIEGO organized a Climate Change Workshop and a South African Waste Pickers Association meeting with groundWork and GAIA (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives) in South Africa.

In Asia, WIEGO supports KKPKP (a union of waste pickers in India) in its coordination and programmatic roles. WIEGO also supports the development and activities of the Alliance of Indian Wastepickers. Recently, support has been provided for mapping waste picker organizations in Asia and for learning visits to India by Asian organizations.

In Latin America, where WIEGO also has a regional waste picker coordinator, efforts are being made to extend the Latin American Network into Central America; this includes a mapping project in Central America that involved a training workshop, as well as ongoing support for strengthening structures and women’s leadership.

Newsletters have been produced with WIEGO support for organizations of waste pickers in Africa, Latin America and India.

Climate Change Negotiations

The Clean Development Mechanism Projects affecting waste picker livelihoods came under revision in 2010-2011, and the WIEGO-GAIA partnership was involved in facilitating waste picker input into these processes. Waste picker organizations were invited to review and comment on the revised CDM methodology before its finalization. The approved CDM methodology makes explicit mention of the informal recycling sector – a victory in having waste pickers internationally recognized for their contribution to reducing carbon emissions and, thereby, mitigating climate change.

WIEGO provided communication support to the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers and Allies as they participated in the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 17) in Durban, South Africa in December. For information, including biographies and blogs from the waste pickers who attended COP17, their statement of demands and other news, visit the new waste picker website: www.globalrec.org, created in support of joint activities of the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers and Allies. WIEGO also tracks news about waste pickers in English, Spanish, and Portuguese and posts weekly news updates.

Other Sectors

Web pages on other occupational groups – construction workers, garment workers, smallholder farmers, and transport workers – have been produced for the new WIEGO website, and WIEGO is exploring how it might further collaborate with organizations of informal workers within these sectors.

Programme Updates

Organization & Representation Programme

Recently, there has been an increase in the pace of network building and the visibility and voice of workers within the sectors discussed above. The programme works with organizations across these sectors, helping map the relevant organizations and allies and strengthen their structures and identities and identities internationally with their own dedicated websites.

Law and the Informal Economy

Following completion of pilots in India and Colombia, the Legal Empowerment of the Working Poor project has been implemented in Ghana, Peru, and Thailand, coordinated by the two lawyers involved in the India pilot. A new microsite on law and informality, linked from WIEGO’s website, provides outputs from the project in the five countries. Please see wiego.org/law.

Organizing Research: Collaboration with the Solidarity Center

WIEGO is working with the Solidarity Center of the AFL-CIO, together with Rutgers University, to produce research on organizing in the informal economy, including an overview and analysis of organizing in different sectors and on laws which affect informal workers and their organizations. A paper was presented at a conference in Cape Town, December 2011.

Statistics Programme

WIEGO's Statistics Programme has been working closely with the ILO to finalize Women and Men in the Informal Economy 2012: A Statistical Picture, an update of the widely-cited 2002 statistical publication. A joint publication of ILO and WIEGO, the update contains new regional estimates of informal employment, country-specific tables for nearly 50 countries including the first published data on informal employment in China, and data on specific categories of urban informal workers. It will be published early in 2012.

Global Trade Programme

A publication that details research findings and analysis of the Women Organizing for Fair Trade project will soon be available. The project, which involved women producers in seven countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, gathered evidence to explore how organizing in collective enterprises can help women better engage with markets, and to enable sharing and learning that could strengthen the Fair Trade movement. Multi-country case studies, individual testimonials and reports have been synthesized into Trading Our Way Up: Women Organizing for Fair Trade. The publication is available on WIEGO’s website. A blog developed for the project features country information, videos, pictures and activities. The blog has received visitors from around the world who request additional information on the project's activities and results. A presentation on the research findings was made to staff of the Department for International Development (DFID) in December. An article on the findings from the research on Women Organizing for Fair Trade was also accepted by Gender & Development Journal for publication in March 2012.

The Programme Director, Elaine Jones, made a presentation at a seminar on Ethical Public Procurement in Barcelona on 14 December. The seminar was convened by SETEM, a Fair Trade organization in Barcelona that is also a member of the Clean Clothes Campaign network. SETEM has been working with a network of local authority representatives to promote the inclusion of ethical criteria on labour standards in the procurement of uniforms for public sector workers.

The Global Trade Programme also commissioned a review of value chain analyses in the area of commodities and horticulture (now available online). A web resource is being developed that will help development practitioners and researchers address the gap in global value chain analysis in relation to informal workers in smallholder value chains.

Social Protection Programme

The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) project, which aims to influence mainstream OHS to be inclusive of informal workers, is now operating in five countries – Brazil, Ghana, India, Peru and Tanzania. See the OHS Newsletter for more information. The OHS programme presented a keynote address and organized a panel for a meeting of the International Commission on Occupational Health in Accra, Ghana, in October. The Social Protection Programme has been invited to contribute to the United Nations Special Health Rapporteur Report on occupational health.

In Ghana, a multi-stakeholder workshop was held in December. Representatives from the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) and the National Board for Small Scale Industries were there. During the workshop, the AMA indicated its commitment to:

  • ask for a trader group to monitor the activities and efficacy of private waste management companies at market areas
  • work with trader associations to educate informal traders about the new computerized tax records, which create greater transparency in the tax system and allow traders to monitor how much they have personally paid in taxes
  • ensure that fire extinguishers are placed in the markets
  • clean the clogged gutter in Makola Market that has been a source of disease

WIEGO’s Social Protection Programme will hold a Health Policy Dialogue on “Universal Health for the Working Poor: Barriers to Access,” which will feature commissioned case studies on national health schemes in Ghana, India, and Thailand. This policy dialogue will be held in Bangkok, Thailand in January 2012 on the eve of the annual Prince Mahidol Award Conference on “Moving Towards Universal Health Coverage: Health Financing Matters.” WIEGO has organized a panel for the conference that draws from the case studies.

Strengthening the Voice of Informal Workers in Latin America

“Strengthening the Voice of Informal Workers in Social Policy Decisions in Latin America” is a project that aims to make social policy more responsive to the needs of the working poor in the informal economy. The project, which began in Peru in 2009 and is now established in Mexico, fosters dialogue between policymakers and informal workers. In Peru, informal workers have engaged in debate with mayoral candidates in municipal elections, held discussions with the chief Economic Development team of the elected Mayor, made a presentation to Parliament on the results of studies, and debated with the two candidates for President of Peru in the runoffs period. These opportunities developed advocacy skills, allowed informal workers to voice their concerns to political leaders, and through collaboration, led different types of informal workers to discover they had much in common.

Urban Policies

WIEGO signed a memorandum of understanding with the African Association of Planning Schools (AAPS) that will help guide collaborative work on curriculum development that incorporates informal employment issues and ideas. As part of this work, an informal economy toolkit was developed and is now featured on the AAPS website.

WIEGO has been consulted on a number of issues by the City of Johannesburg. A small group from the city’s Economic Development Department spent a day at the University of KwaZulu-Natal talking with WIEGO team members about informal economy policy. In developing its informal economy policy for the metro area, Johannesburg officials also drew heavily on and quoted WIEGO research and content.

Global Projects

Inclusive Cities for the Working Poor

The Inclusive Cities (IC) project aims to strengthen MBOs in the areas of organizing, policy analysis, and advocacy, in order to ensure that urban informal workers have the tools necessary to make themselves heard within urban planning processes.
Recent highlights included:

  • WIEGO coordinated the participation of a group of Inclusive Cities partners at the UN Economic Social Commission for Asia-Pacific (UNESCAP) Asia-Pacific Forum. There, IC delegates moderated a panel on “Women and Cities” and participated in sessions, ensuring the informal economy was on the agenda. IC also had an exhibition booth that was visited by many policymakers. The street vendor from Delhi and the waste picker from Pune who attended were the only urban working poor at a conference on urban poverty in Asia.
  • A sub-group of the Clinton Global Initiative, which focuses on waste, has developed an online “knowledge hub” to which the project has contributed, as well as participating in consultations with the group on a financial modelling tools for WP organizations and a possible documentary film. In September, Nohra Padilla, Lucia Fernandez and Rhonda Douglas attended the group’s recent one-day meeting in New York City, along with partners from GAIA. The meeting brought together a broad range of 80 organizations (donors, NGOs, corporations) interested in informal waste issues.

Informal Economy Monitoring Study

In mid- 2009 and 2010, the Inclusive Cities (IC) partners – WIEGO and local membership-based organizations (MBOs) of informal workers – undertook two multi-city studies on the impact of the global recession on informal workers. During 2011, they planned a sequel to these studies: a three-year multi-city study of the state of the urban informal economy: called the Informal Economy Monitoring Study (IEMS). The IEMS will be conducted in 10 cities in 2012 and 2014. In the mid-year, building on the findings from 2012, a modified version of the study to probe key issues will be conducted and strategy plus policy workshops will be held. Imraan Valodia, who has been an active research member and partner of WIEGO, will direct the project; Zoe Horn, who coordinated the earlier global economic crisis study, will continue to oversee the coordination with the partners.

In recent months, researchers from 10 countries and an eight-person technical advisory committee have met to establish methodology and guidelines. Using both participatory research methodology and quantitative methods, the IEMS research will be more complex and robust than the previous global economic crisis study, and will take on more issues using a bigger sample size. In addition to shedding light on how the livelihoods of urban informal workers are changing, and what is driving that change, the IEMS project is expected to help build the research capacity of MBOs and provide them with usable tools for advocacy. The initial training session for researchers and MBO coordinators is planned for April 2012 in Durban, South Africa.


WIEGO continues to manage the Inclusive Cities website where publications, stories from the partners, news from around the globe and content around particular events or issues, such as waste pickers and climate change, are posted. The website contains content in English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. Also, an Inclusive Cities blog features weekly sector news updates from WIEGO’s Waste and Street Vendor Sector Specialists, a range of commentary, and activities relating to IC partners.

- Follow Inclusive Cities on Twitter: @InclusiveCities

- Like Inclusive Cities on Facebook: facebook.com/InclusiveCitiesProject

Women’s Economic Empowerment

Progress has been made in many components of this multi-faceted project, and many of these are reported in other parts of this newsletter. For example:

  • “Organized Strength for Home-Based Workers,” a collaborative research and advocacy project between WIEGO and HomeNet Thailand, aims to improve the livelihood, economic security and empowerment of women home-based workers. Good progress has been made to develop an Informal Sector Network in Thailand and to broaden support for informal workers beyond home-based workers. WIEGO visited the project in March 2011 to review the group’s progress.
  • Market Support for Street Vendors is a partnership with Asiye eTafuleni, an NGO in Durban, South Africa which WIEGO has supported to become fully operational in the past two years. As part of the build-up to the Fifa World Cup, Asiye eTafuleni was part of a civil society push to resist the demolition of the early morning market in Durban. Through campaigning and a legal challenge, the group was able to defeat the city’s plans to tear down this historic and successful market and put up a shopping mall.



Outreach Activities

  • In July, WIEGO participated in the World’s Women 2011 conference, which featured seminars, discussions and presentations for more than 1,000 participants. Members of WIEGO’s Global Projects team gave a presentation on the Global Economic Crisis Study and the gathering of data from informal workers.
  • WIEGO had a booth at the Ecocity World Summit in August to highlight the work of the Inclusive Cities project as well as the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers. This conference was focused on urban planning and environmental sustainability. Presentations were given on including MBOs in research and the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers.
  • WIEGO’s International Coordinator, Marty Chen, presented on the informal economy at two meetings organized by the World Bank team responsible for producing the World Development Report 2013 on Jobs, and at a workshop for economists and policy makers from G20 countries organized by the NY Stern School of Business, Indian Council for Research in International Economic Relations, and the World Bank.
  • In October, WIEGO – along with the International Institute for Environment and Shack/Slum Dwellers International – co-organized a speaking event in the UK. The event was sponsored by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for International Development & the Environment and hosted at the Houses of Parliament by the Environment Minister, Rt Hon Michael Meacher MP, who chaired the meeting. Called “The View From The Streets: Citizen-Led Contributions to Urban Poverty Reduction,” the event was part of Future Directions for Sustainable Development, a series exploring the challenges facing policymakers ahead of the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 2012. Speakers included Bijal Bhatt, Director for Mahila Housing, SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association of India) Trust, and Richard Dobson, Project Leader for Asiye eTafuleni in Durban, South Africa.


  • WIEGO is committed to increasing its ability to operate effectively as a multi-lingual network. Translation in Spanish, English, Portuguese and French is done on a regular basis for publications and presentations, content on the WIEGO and Inclusive Cities websites, and at events.
  • WIEGO is committed to the use of social media vehicles – in concert with members and partners – to enlarge its audience and raise greater awareness about informal economy workers and issues.

    - Follow WIEGO on Twitter: @WIEGOGlobal
    - Like WIEGO on Facebook: facebook.com/wiegoglobal

  • WIEGO has undertaken a needs analysis/feasibility study for an interactive, password-protected online collaborative workspace for researchers in the informal economy. Possible features being considered include discussion topics, document storage and sharing, and bulletin boards.

New Publications, Reports & Resources

Allen, C. and E. Jossias, with Sonia M. Dias. 2011. Mapping of the Policy Context and Catadores Organizations in Maputo, Mozambique. WIEGO Organizing Series.

Bonner, Chris. 2011. “Organizing Informal Workers: Building and Strengthening Membership-Based Organizations.” WIEGO Workshop Report.

Bonner, Chris, Barbro Budin and Karin Pape. Forthcoming. “The ILO Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers: From Promise to Reality,” in International Union Rights, London.

Budlender, Debbie. 2011. Measuring Informal Employment in South Africa: The New Quarterly Labour Force Survey. Statistical Brief, No. 7.

Budlender, Debbie. 2011. Statistics on Informal Employment in Ghana.  Statistical Brief, No. 6.

Budlender, Debbie. 2011. Statistics on Informal Employment in Kenya. Statistical Brief, No. 5.

Budlender, Debbie. 2011. Statistics on Informal Employment in Brazil. Statistical Brief, No. 4.

Budlender, Debbie. 2011. Statistics on Informal Employment in South Africa. Statistical Brief, No. 3.

Chan, Man-Kwun. 2011. Review of Value Chain Analysis in the Commodities Sector: Roles, Constraints and Opportunities for Informal Workers.  WIEGO.

Chen, Martha Alter and G. Raveendran. Forthcoming. “Urban Employment in India: Recent Trends and Future Prospects” in Margin, the journal of the National Council of Applied Economics Research, India.

Dias, Sonia M. “Foto Noticia Pesquisa De Campo Exploration Em Mocambique.” Photo report.

Institut Africain de Gestion Urbaine (IAGU). 2011. “Recovery and Recycling of Solid Waste: A Thematic Analysis of the Literature in Francophone African Countries.”

Jones, Elaine, Sally Smith and Carol Wills. 2011. Trading Our Way Up: Women Organizing for Fair Trade. Cambridge, Massachusetts: WIEGO.

Nohn, Matthias. 2011. Mixed-Use Zoning and Home-Based Production in India. WIEGO Urban Policies Technical Briefing Note, No. 3.

Ruiz-Restrepo, Adriana and Shailly Barnes. 2010. “WIEGO Report on the Policy Environment of the Informal Urban Waste pickers and Artisanal Mine Workers in Colombia.” WIEGO Law Project.

Samson, Melanie and Kally Forrest (eds.). 2011. Waste Picking in Africa Newsletter, September 2011.

Skinner, Caroline. 2011. AAPS Planning Education Toolkit: The Informal Economy. Cape Town, South Africa: African Association of Planning Schools.

Spooner, Dave. 2011. “Organizing Street Vendors in Liberia – Workshop Report: WIEGO, StreetNet, Ghana TUC.”

WIEGO. 2011. OHS Newsletter, Issue 3, August 2011.