A ten-member contingent representing Homenet Southeast Asia, Homenet Thailand, Homenet Indonesia, and Homenet Thailand crossed continents to participate in the First General Assembly of Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) held in Durban South Africa April 21-23 .
The Assembly approved WIEGO’s new governance structure and Steering Committee, and gave inputs to WIEGO’s five programs: organizing and representation, social protection, research and statistics, urban policies, and global markets.
WIEGO is a network of researchers, activists, and policymakers who are trying to help informal workers on a global scale.It is a network that started out as a collaboration between women activists and informal women workers in India on the one side, and researchers at Harvard University in the U.S. on the other side. It then expanded to include informal workers’ organizations across Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe,North America, and elsewhere.
One important part of WIEGO’s work is to coordinate and work with the Homenet organizations in South East Asia and South Asia. WIEGO also works closely with trade unions, international organizations, universities (including many prestigious universities and research institutes throughout the world), and statistical offices. This last tie – with offices of national statistics – is particularly important because it is always necessary to point out that in most developing countries, the vast majority of workers are informal workers (and not formal sector workers), and that national and international policies must now focus on the needs of informal workers because, in so many countries, informal workers are the workforce. In many countries, it is also the fastest growing part of the workforce.
In all, 100 participants from 32 countries participated in the General Assembly; 38 of the participants were delegates from the 14 member-based organizations , including the various Homenets.. An additional 70 persons participated in the Urban Policies Colloquium called “‘World Class Cities’ and the Urban Informal Economy: Inclusive Planng for the Working Poor” co-organized by WIEGO, StreetNet International and the School of Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu Natal on April 24-25.
During a typical Durban dinner, WIEGO participants feted Ela Bhatt, the out-going and founding chair of WIEGO and founder of the 700,000-strong Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India. Her autobiography entitled “We Are Poor But So Many” was also launched in Durban.
Homenet Southeast Asia Subregional Council members (Rosalinda Pineda Ofreneo, Kanoknart Ngamnetra, Hesti Wijaya, Lourdes Gula, Hesti Wijaya, Primar Jardeleza, and Josephine Parilla) together with other delegates (Sujin Rungsawang and Nunuk Setyaningwati, and Orapin Wimolpusit) took advantage of the opportunity to hold an informal meeting for updating and planning particularly for the subregional workshop on fair trade and marketing to be held in the Philippines in Novemeber.
They also attended the meeting called by Karin Pape of the Global Labour Institute to discuss plans for pushing for ratification of the Convention and/or national policies based on the provisions of the Convention in different countries.
38 participants to the WIEGO conference were delegates from the 14 member-based organizations including the various homenets