Streetnet holds successful Regional Workshop in LAOS

28 November, 2016

By Oksana Abboud – StreetNet Organizer

Pictured is a group of all participants attending the Workshop

StreetNet held a successful Regional Workshop on Organizing Informal Workers, on 21-22 November 2016 in Vientiane City, Laos. The workshop was part of a StreetNet-OXFAM partnership.

40 participants attended the workshop which Oksana Abboud, StreetNet Organiser, facilitated.

The main aims of the workshops were:

  • To understand how to organise workers in the informal economy and conduct collective bargaining;
  • To learn about international experiences and best practices in other countries;
  • To understand the role of trade unions in transitioning from the informal to the formal economy;
  • Planning a programme and the way forward;
  • Information-sharing on the informal economy.

Participants were welcomed by Mr. Simoon Ounlasy, Vice-President of the Lao Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU), Mr. Inpeng Meunvieth, Acting Director of its International Relations Department and Mr. Antonino Faibene, Programme Manager of the Oxfam office in Laos.

Mr Ounlasy highlighted the importance of informal sector workers, their contribution to the country’s national economy and the challenges the LFTU faces in organising informal sector workers in Laos. The country’s Trade Union Law doesn’t mention informal workers and their right to be organised. LFTU plans to amend this law to include "informal workers” in its definition. He pointed out that informal workers outnumber formal workers and are an important source of worker power. When street vendors are brought into society, they become formal workers – a development which can be beneficial in financial terms, i.e. they pay taxes. The budget from the government to help street vendors is insufficient; support from other parties is needed.

Pictured are (from left to right) Mr. Simoon Ounlasy, LFTU Vice-President, Mr. Antonino Faibene, Programme Manager of the Oxfam office in Laos and Mr. Inpeng Meunvieth, Acting Director of LFTU International Relations Department

70 % of Laos’ workforce is active in the informal sector, said Mr Antonino of Oxfam. 90 % of these are women, who often lack skills and knowledge and are vulnerable. The Government has not taken any concrete actions to address their situation.

Mrs. Souphone Voravong presented research – ‘Street vendors in Vientiane City’, Laos" – by UN Women, which underlined the substantial growth Laos had made in its GDP over the last few years. This is needed, she said, to help women get income, make them less vulnerable and let them feel they are protected, appreciated and welcomed by society and government. She also suggested training on credit and negotiations for women street vendors, building their capacity, self-esteem and self-respect to strengthen them.

The workshop comprised seven activities. The first was introductory. The rest was made up of small working groups which discussed and developed different tasks around organizing and negotiations in informal economy sector.

Workshop participants while working in groups

The groups first discussed the need to organise workers in the informal economy . Central to this was understanding the specificities of organising in the context of the informal economy, developing appropriate organising strategies and responses for informal economy workers and developing and understanding key skills and abilities required by good organisers.

The groups next discussed addressing the needs and demands of informal economy workers through collective negotiations aimed at gaining a better understanding of some of their problems and demands. They also examined the importance of direct representation in collective negotiations for informal economy workers.

Next, the working groups identified three issues of their sector workers and had to translate these into demands for negotiations. The facilitator explained how this process is done, through simply re-phrasing the issues. She emphasised the use of specific wording as demands should be realistic and aimed at achieving maximum success. This is especially important for an organisation at the beginning of negotiations.

Lessons from trade unions in other countries on organizing in the informal economy, followed. Participants used cases studies to examine how trade unions around the world organised in this sector. This exercise was to enable them to develop their own thinking and ideas around organizing in the informal economy.

Workshop participants while working in groups

One of the most crucial ILO documents, Recommendation 204, was also discussed and analysed. ILO Recommendation 204 focuses on transitioning from the informal to the formal economy. This activity was important for understanding the meaning and concept of the informal economy, organising within it and the requirements for an effective transition from the informal to formal economy. The groups had to read ILO Recommendation 204, identify the formalisation elements, most progressive clauses and the missing elements in it. Most participants found this task difficult.

To help, the facilitator spoke on the key strategic gains of ILO Recommendation 204, which were very progressive and good for informal workers. She also mentioned those clauses which could harm them, and issues which were missing in the Recommendation, e.g. the lack of inclusion at local level authority level.

The last but very important activity, was developing a union strategy for informal economy workers. Participants revisited earlier discussions in order to develop a clear strategy and practical action plan directed towards achieving the vision of the different union groups, in the future.

The working groups drew up their action plans, defining their target groups and key priorities. They presented the step by step actions needed to organise informal workers and to overcome the obstacles they face in building their strategy.

During the workshop evaluation, participants expressed their happiness at learning about organising informal workers, and about ILO instruments. The workshop had offered them a chance to express their own views; however, learning about other countries’ experiences was a bonus. Vietnamese and Cambodian delegates had added value to the workshop by sharing their experiences in organising informal economy workers.

Workshop participants while working in groups

In his closing speech, Mr. Simoon Ounlasy stated that LFTU would implement the acquired knowledge and skills fruitfully in its trade union activity. He hoped for further support from both OXFAM and StreetNet International.

The Regional Workshop was successful and very useful for the LFTU participants who had just started learning about organising informal economy workers. Their leadership understands the importance of and need for organising informal workers in Laos; they have a great willingness to learn about this to move forward.

Lastly, StreetNet thanks Khamphy Khammvong, Oxfam Programme Officer in Laos. His dedicated preparatory work made this Regional event possible.

Streetnet International President’s Message on International Vendors Day (14 November 2016)

14 November, 2016

Lorraine Sibanda, StreetNet International President

Comradely Greetings to you all Informal Economy Workers in the entire world.

Today marks the 5th commemoration of the International Vendors Day. This is a special DAY for all informal economy workers who have become the bulk and majority of the working population across the whole world, of which the majority are women.

As the formal economy continues to shrink due to casualisation of work, company closures and growth of precarious work in the formal set-up, the informal economy work has continued to offer fall back survival and livelihood lines to the world’s populace, with street vending been the simplest and highest sector. However, these workers have and are continuously being victims of HARASSMENTS, CRIMINALISATION, POLITICISATION, DECENT WORK DEFICITS which include lack of social protection.

The importance of this day is that we as informal economy workers have continued to assert ourselves and fight for our rights and dignity against all odds. Our hope has been strengthened by the International Labour Organisation Recommendation 204 of 2015 which speaks on the transformation of the informal economy to the formal economy. This puts us on a high pedestal to set conditions and dictate the pace for the transformation process.

Therefore, comrades outside the sufferings we have been going through, our celebration or commemoration this year is equipped with the ammunition (R204) which awaits our practical implementation to cause our governments and the entire world decision making bodies not to ignore us anymore. It is our obligation as a united force to keep fighting this war. Let us not tire or allow anyone to divide our efforts. Our struggle is ONE and UNITED WE STAND, TOGETHER WE CAN under a TOUCH ONE TOUCH ALL approach.

Lastly we need to all popularise the commemoration of this day as much as possible through awareness campaigns and various activities so that we build on the visibility of the day. This should strengthen the day to become a holiday event for us in the international calendar.

As StreetNet International we say “NOTHING FOR US WITHOUT US”.

Thank you.

Lorraine Sibanda StreetNet International President

"Sustaining current struggles to end destruction of informal homes and livelihoods and establish a credible vendors/government negotiation structure in Lagos, Nigeria"

21 October, 2016

Pictured in Comrade Gbenga Komolafe, FIWON General Secretary

The ban of street trading in Lagos will take away the means of livelihood from street vendors in the midst of economic hardship in Nigeria.

Taking into account a high unemployment rate in the country, Lagosians feel the governor should have looked for a way of regulating the activities of the vendors and hawkers, instead of an outright ban.

Comrade Gbenga Komolafe, a General Secretary of Federation of Informal Workers’ Organizations of Nigeria (FIWON), new StreetNet affiliate from Nigeria, highlights the challenges for the informal vendors in Nigeria to force the authority to negotiate with street vendors.

"It’s been turbulent here with the Lagos State Government continuing with its destruction of homes and livelihoods of the poor in Lagos. We had to stage two demonstrations in the past two weeks. First on October 4, 2016 to protest demolition of informal workplaces in some parts of Lagos and on October 13, 2016 and yet a more massive one on October 17, 2016 to protest the Governor’s declaration that would destroy all water front communities in Lagos! The protest continues.

Inaugurating the Osun State Chapter of FIWON

Local governments in Nigeria especially Lagos State are absolutely dysfunctional. The state governments actually control their finances, organize election into local councils and administers local government funds. This had led to gross abuse of the local government as an arm of governance while rendering them useless as an effective organ of local governance. Lagos State Government (LASG) has refused to organize election into local governments for several years while the ‘Party Leader’ appoints ‘Sole Administrators’ to manage them.

State government ministries and departments seem to be more relevant to informal workers here: Ministry of Commerce deal with traders, collects taxes from them, Ministry of transport deal with transporters and collect all manner of levies from them, Ministry of Environment deals with waste pickers etc. The local governments also collect certain forms of taxes but offer virtually no services.

The immediate challenge is to fight the current battles to stop further demolitions of homes and livelihoods of informal workers and use the struggle as an opportunity to building lasting structures of engagement with the vendors and use that to force open at least some of the closed space for service delivery and permanent collective negotiations.

Pictured are FIWON members during one of their Training Programs

We are demanding for the state government to retract its statement that it would destroy all water front communities in Lagos and engage with us on other inclusive options including the necessity for negotiation forums between informal workers and relevant line ministries.

The next challenge for FIWON is to organize a comprehensive advocacy campaign to respond to the terrible injustices being meted out to informal workers and get LASG to review its overt gentrification policies in the name of building a ‘mega city’ as part of a ‘modernization’ agenda. Such a campaign will involve meticulous interface with the street traders, an action plan with them, vigorous media campaigns, possible mass actions and of course interface with government officials and institutions with a view to achieve credible negotiation structures with the government institutions".

FIWON massive protest action against the Governor's declaration that would destroy all water front communities in Lagos (October 17, 2016)

Information provided by Gbenga Komolafe, FIWON General Secretary

FIWON was inaugurated on June 18, 2010 in Abuja in the course of its 1st National Conference in Abuja with over 34 self – employed workers’ organizations in attendance. FIWON’s membership is spread across 21 states in Nigeria, encompassing organizations of informal workers across 28 sectors ranging from agriculture and food processing to street and market vending, auto repair, petty manufacturing, carpentry and others.

 

5th StreetNet International Congress in the eyes of Admin team "A remarkable moment for StreetNet International"

Ruby Essack, Congress Administrator
Ruby Essack, Congress Administrator

My impressions are that the Congress focus was predominantly about voting in the new leadership instead of being focused and used as an opportunity to discuss various strategic issues and strategies for the organization and its future.

I think that it is great that for the 1st time in history StreetNet has a woman president and who is also from Africa. She sounds very competent and I’m sure she will do StreetNet proud.

I believe that most things went according to plan and what didn’t, we managed to find ways to make things happen.

The most difficult was working with a travel agent in another country, with 3.5 hours time difference ahead of South Africa and the language barrier. Some others were working with two hosts where one was very willing to work together and the other not really.

Previous Congresses, StreetNet had a full team working on the congress, it this instance it was just me, so it was burning the midnight oil for almost 3 months.

Teleconferences with the hosts were few and very difficult to have due to the communication line kept dropping every few minutes despite the different methods of communication being tried.

Holding the whole together in Delhi including the finance to ensure that everything ran smoothly and sometimes needing to get directly involved in tasks delegated to others, as they were not taking full responsibility for what was needed to be done.

However, working with Muskan and Shubendran who were always willing to do whatever was needed to be done and the pleasure of hearing how grateful they were for the new learning gained, lifted my spirit despite how tired I felt! Some affiliates expressing their appreciation for the good job being done

I think that most of the tasks were achieved. People did complain about not getting their visa requirements on time, but if you look at the ratio of how many people did make the congress despite the late requirements, I think is a very good achievement and not forgetting that there was only a 1 person team working on the congress preparations from the StreetNet end.

I would like to add that there were many people that were assisted in obtaining their visas due to my proactiveness and going the extra mile and it would’ve been good to hear feedback about this instead of complaints or criticism.

I wish that the StreetNet leadership work closely together with the coordinator to strengthen the organization and fulfill the vision and mission of StreetNet and its affiliates.

Sibailly M. Douhouré, StreetNet Organiser for Africa & Educator
Sibailly M. Douhouré, StreetNet Organiser for Africa & Educator

For the first time in the history of StreetNet, a woman has been elected President. For the first time, an African is elected President. The participation of women was 60%. This is the highest percentage of participation in all of StreetNet’s Congresses.

It was difficult in contacting affiliates in Africa to urgently confirm their itineraries. The consequence of this was that there wasn’t enough time to carry out visa applications particularly for affiliates who do not have Consulate of India in their countries and needed to travel to other countries for the procedures. We worked under stress while waiting for visas. Despite all these, with the collaboration of NASVI almost all expected delegates arrived, except Guinea who couldn’t obtain their visa.

The interpretation into other languages was not that good which made the discussion difficult, especially discussions regarding resolutions.

Oksana Abboud, StreetNet Organizer, Media Officer
Oksana Abboud, StreetNet Organizer, Media Officer

I am very happy to be part of StreetNet International staff since I started in January 2013.

This is my second time to participate in the StreetNet Congress nevertheless the preparation for the 5th StreetNet Congress was different as I got new responsibilities and tasks to do before and during the Congress.

I was always involved in all the Congress preparation stages and know how hard and challenging it was up to the Congress dates in October. Administrating all the StreetNet affiliates is a huge task especially for one person. But due to great experience and professionalism of Ruby Essack, the 5th StreetNet Congress went well.

It was also challenging for me as a Media person but at the same time when you see some results and positive feedback, you understand that all the spent efforts were not just wasted.

We didn’t fully succeed in Media Workshop and cultural evening, but this is a good lesson for our future Congress planning. Our Congress preparation team was small but effective as we were working in coordination and on one wave.

Bobby Marie, Congress Newsletter Editor and Photographer
Bobby Marie, Congress Newsletter Editor and Photographer

I think the 5th StreetNet Congress has been successful in its main official objectives especially in brining delegates from 49 countries, with no major failures.

However, with regard to the Media Plan we didn’t succeed everything. We just got to do an exhibition and Newsletter, FaceBook and Twitter postings. We did not do our Media workshop, and cultural evening due to the work of the congress which does not allow evening programme.

I think the Congress planning should start long before the Congress but big thanks to the admin staff from NASVI who worked very hard and helped a lot in making the 5th Congress happened.

Starting the Congress with a panel discussion about Indian Act on Street Vending was very successful start of this event. I believe the Congress in general is a great opportunity for delegates from different parts of the world to meet once in 3 years.

Miguel Sanz from WIEGO
Miguel Sanz from WIEGO

It was a pleasure and honour to help at the StreetNet International 5th Congress. I got the chance to meet workers from around the globe, united to improve the livelihoods and rights of street vendors. Incredibly strong women in action! And of course a great team to make that possible.

Thanks to all!

La lucha sigue!

Muskan Khan, NASVI Administration Department
Muskan Khan, NASVI Administration Department

I have never thought about the StreetNet but when heard and things happened very close to me, I really feel proud to be a part of this big world organisation.

I strongly believe everything went according to the plan. There were some difficulties during the Congress itself but most of planned stuff has been arranged successfully and I was really enjoying doing arrangements of panel meetings, arrival and departure of participants, smooth good environment, food arrangements and hospitality.

I got a great experience within such a short period of time and I know that StreetNet is very big organization and is the best platform for every vendor and affiliated organization.

Please remember to give me a chance again with such opportunity to be a part of next StreetNet International Conference.

Biggest Thanks to StreetNet for this congress conducted in India and a special thanks to Respected Ruby Madam and Oksana Madam. Both were too good and so kind. Also thanks to Respected Pat Madam for yummy chocolates.

Shubhendra Sachan, NASVI Admin Department
Shubhendra Sachan, NASVI Admin Department

Before this Congress, I did not know about the StreetNet, work done and achievements of StreetNet International as how it is improving the livelihood of the informal workers around the world. But, after being a part of StreetNet International I came to know with the reality of the work done for the informal sector from past 15 years since its inception and taking oath to continue such great work in future.

I saw everybody tried hard to make 5th StreetNet International a success and made sure that everything goes as per the plan.

The most difficult task was to make the delegates comfortable as it was their 1st visit to India and they were very much relying over us for each and everything. So, our aim was to make this Congress a remarkable for all the delegates too and I feel honored to be a part of it and doing my job perfectly.

The best part during the preparation of the Congress was to introduce the delegates with the Indian culture.

I think there were some issues related to interpreters and their equipment which were partly achieved and could be provided much better for better results.

It was my first experience working with StreetNet International and I must say it was a very nice experience. Meeting delegates from around the world, understanding their concerns, trying to provide all kind of help to make them feel comfortable and let them concentrate on their work for which they have come really meant to me a lot. It really helped me as a person and in my professional life too. There was so much to learn from everybody present that I am taking a lot of learning from it.

Firstly, I would like to congratulate StreetNet International for a successful visit to India. I wish StreetNet International come soon again to India and give me pleasure to provide my services once again.

Benu Sainy, SEWA Finance
Benu Sainy, SEWA Finance

I had a wonderful experience during the Congress to meet to all the StreetNet staff, Ruby Ma’am, Bobby and other participants. Such a great experience to work with all of you!

El Salvador – Con diálogo negociación todos ganamos

23 de septiembre de 2016

El Sr. José Herminio Díaz, Secretario General de FESTIVES, la afiliada de StreetNet de El Salvador, comparte los progresos realizados recientemente con respecto al diálogo con el municipio local en su país.

En San Salvador iniciamos un proceso de diálogo tripartito a inicios de agosto del 2015 entre gobierno local, gobierno central por medio del ministerio de trabajo y previsión social, empresa privada (representantes de la ANEP), y varias organizaciones aglutinadas en la UNIDAD NACIONAL DE VENDEDORES conformada por la FEDERACION SINDICAL DE TRABAJADORES INDEPENDIENTES VENDEDORES DE EL SALVADOR FESTIVES, LA COORDINADORA NACIONAL DE VENDEDORES (CNV) Y VARIAS ORGANIZACIONES INDEPENDIENTES, conformamos la MESA MUNICIPAL DE DIÁLOGO TRIPARTITO (MMDT) con el apoyo de la OIT.

En dicha mesa se tocaron varios temas de interés de nuestro sector, pero también se realizaron una serie de reuniones bilaterales con el gobierno local presidido por el alcalde NAYIB BUKELE. En ambas reuniones siempre las partes mostramos interés en llegar a acuerdos concretos, fue así como se propuso hacer proyectos de gran envergadura como el predio ex biblioteca, mercado Hula Hula, mercado Cuscatlán, mercado colonia Escalón, entre otros.

En este proceso, llegamos a mínimos acuerdos iniciales como son: ordenarnos en lugares con edificios de gran historia nacional, movernos a otros lugares mientras se realizan los proyectos mencionados con el aval de vendedores y gobierno local. Hasta la fecha se han despejado 24 cuadras, una calle que estaba totalmente cerrada a el paso vehicular, lugares que se embellecerán para la atracción de los amigos turistas que nos visitan. Estamos a las puertas de celebrar por primera vez el 14 de noviembre de cada año, como día nacional del trabajador por cuenta propia, recién aprobado por decreto diputados de todas las fracciones de la honorable asamblea legislativa, donde celebraremos e inauguraremos las ferias de los trabajadores por cuenta propia, donde participarán miembros del gobierno local, organizaciones de trabajadores y empresarios formales, todo en la alianza mesa municipal de diálogo tripartito de San Salvador.

Dentro de los retos que tenemos podemos mencionar la aprobación de nuestra ley especial para los trabajadores por cuenta propia, incorporación al régimen del seguro social, incorporación al sistema de pensiones, por ejemplo; pero no descansaremos hasta lograr que las fracciones de distintos partidos que dicen representarnos en el congreso nos den su apoyo y aprobación. LA UINDAD NACIONAL DE VENDEDORES, LA COORDINADORA SINDICAL DE TRABAJADORES POR CUENTA PROPIA (COSICP), LA FEDERACION SINDICAL DE TRABAJADORES INDEPENDIENTES VENDEDORES DE EL SALALVADOR (FESTIVES), estaremos pendientes de cualquier cabildeo con las autoridades competentes para lograr nuestro objetivo.

12th Southern Africa Civil Society Forum and StreetNet-SATUCC Regional Workshop on the implementation of ILO Recommendation 204 on “Transitions from the informal to the Formal Economy”

15 September, 2016

The 12th Southern Africa Civil Society forum took place at Lugogo Conference Centre in Mbabane, Swaziland from the 15th to the 17th of August 2016. A total of eight informal economy organisations from eight Southern African countries participated with ZCIEA represented by ten delegates led by the organisation’s National President Lorraine Sibanda.

As the East and Southern African Focal point for StreetNet International, ZCIEA led the eight countries informal economy organisations in the proceedings standing for the informal economy with Southern African Trade Union Confederation(SATUCC) standing in for trade unions, Fellowship of Christian Councils In Southern Africa (FOCCISA) standing in for faith based organisations and SADC – CNGO for the non-governmental organisations.

The StreetNet-SATUCC Regional Workshop looked at the outputs of the Lusaka workshop on ILO Recommendation 204 on the 28th/29th July. StreetNet had to demonstrate to get the space to submit its issues at the Civil Society Forum.

The informal economy submitted the following points for the CSF communique:

  1. 1. At the Manzini workshop, informal workers and cross-border traders from Lesotho, Malawi, Mocambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia & Zimbabwe met, considered the outcomes arrived at in Lusaka two weeks ago by informal workers organisations and TUs belonging to SATUCC, and built further on these.
    2. SADC countries identified as making most positive progress in implementation of R204 are Malawi, Mocambique and Zambia.
    3. Swaziland SADC people’s summit. Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique and Botswana.
    4. In Mocambique, the following government agencies are engaging directly with the Associacao da Economia Informal do Mocambique (AIEMO, affiliated to OTM) INSS institute of social security, BAO business registration authority, customs & excise authorities, municipal councils. Customs authorities are working with AIEMO in terms of MoUs at each border post, and municipal councils are working with AIEMO in terms of MoUs in each city.
    5. Participants from Lesotho, South Africa and Swaziland reported government unilateralism and continuing and persistent tendencies to make decisions about them in their absence.
    6. In Zimbabwe, the government has used R204 as a tool to find new ways of making money out of workers in the informal economy. The most vicious of these is the notorious ordinance SI64 prohibiting essential imports by cross-border traders.
    7. Participants call on the SADC Heads of Government to instruct the Zimbabwean Government to immediately scrap SI64.
    8. The key difference between the positive examples cited from Malawi, Mocambique and Zambia is the involvement of organised workers in the informal economy in processes of implementation, versus the unilateralism of the other SADC governments. The slogan of all organised workers in the informal economy remains – Nothing For Us Without Us!!
    9. Participants called for the simplification of informal cross-border trade in SADC and put the STR (Simplified Trade Regime) in place by means of bilateral negotiations between more countries, in the interests of the livelihoods of the poorest informal CBTs, most of whom are women. The SADC Secretariat must get to work as soon as possible to get these programs started.
    10. Workers in the informal economy call for the appointment of a SADC Ambassador for Implementation of R204 – that Ambassador should be the President of one of the identified best practice countries Malawi, Mocambique & Zambia.
    11. Participants call for the reinstatement of SADC tribunal.
    12. Participants call for a time-frame for implementation of R204 in SADC – the first report, which should be received within 6 months, should specify the implementation time-table. Workers in informal economy must get progress report-backs every year after SADC Heads of State meetings.

The Civil Society Forum was immediately followed by the SADC peoples summit in Manzini where the informal economy through ZCIEA led a cluster on trade and debt. The cluster came submitted the same points from the CSF to be incorporated into the People’s Summit Communique for submission to the SADC Heads of State summit in Swaziland.

The Final Declaration from the Swaziland workshop which became part of the SADC Civil Society Forum declaration to the SADC Heads of State meeting two weeks later can be found here: 12th Southern Africa Civil Society Forum Commission 6: Transition from informal to formal economy

Hard efforts of street vendors in Rwanda lead to positive outcomes

9 September, 2016

Pictured are street vendors' already packed in new markets in the Kigali city. They show their contentment in front of markets and in front of their goods

Jeannette NYIRAMASENGESHO, President of Syndicat des Travailleurs Independents de l’Economie Informelle (SYTRIECI), StreetNet affiliate from Rwanda, clarifies the situation of street vendors in her country, namely after the spread of news in social media by Rwanda local government about construction of 12 mini markets for approximately 8000 former street vendors in Rwanda capital – Kigali city who will be exempted from taxes for one year which means they will not pay rent or taxes for within the whole year.

Jeannette NYIRAMASENGESHO states: “the situation of street vendors has always been our concern. The Rwandan Government, for its part, has already understood our concerns in relation to these street vendors.
After negotiation by SYTRIECI with the city of Kigali, where there is the largest part of this group of people, this last is currently concerned about the creation of new markets in their place to be able to work under more comfortable conditions.

As a reminder, the informal sector in Rwanda is composed of several categories of workers who are grouped in many organizations. In this context, SYTRIECI deals mainly with workers who are street vendors and market vendors and other informal sector workers who are struggling for life. It is in this context that SYTRIECI, as a Union that also deals with street vendors and market vendors, took charge to do advocacy for its registered members without forgetting others who are not yet registered.

Pictured are street vendors' already packed in new markets in the Kigali city. They show their contentment in front of markets and in front of their goods

At the statement of the City Hall of the city of Kigali to redevelop the procedure of these street vendors and restructure their way of street vending transactions, SYTRIECI has closely followed this policy to strengthen its strategic and technical contribution.

Indeed, our Union SYTRIECI, on its part, had sent its written opinions and proposals to the mayor of the city of Kigali in line of channeling the possible solutions in the sense that promotes these street vendors. For example, among the solutions proposed to the Mayor of the city of Kigali, there is an idea to group them into cooperatives to enable them to work in order and with objectives of maximally profit from their actions. SYTIECI had highlighted this strategy insistently in its letter to the Mayor of the city of Kigali in May 2016.

On the list of strategies were also the creation of markets, the tax exemption and the creation of unions of solidarity as well as tontines.

Recently, after many meetings discussing the problem between the authorities of the city of Kigali and the street vendors, the unanimous decision was to restructure their working methods and focus on the grouping into cooperatives to maximize the profits and strengthen the solidarity.

By closely following this decision, we have noticed that the implementation has not been easily respected. It took further discussions to strengthen the understanding of this policy. At the same time, the Mayor of the city of Kigali introduced the smaller markets built in the place of street vendors so that they can work in order and at ease. In any case, we are closely following the entire process and in some cases we also have meetings with local authorities to extend the negotiations for the street vendors to obtain some places in the public markets. In doing so, SYTRIECI find it positive. In so doing again, we continue to ensure that this good practice is implemented and lasts longer.

In short, in Rwandan context, the street vending seems not to be the best answer for the harmonious life of the downtown street vendors. Indeed, without forgetting that this work is the Foundation of their survival despite many problems they face in selling their goods on the street, any effort to improve their living conditions is the focus of interest centre for SYTRIECI.

Street vendors express their happiness to get a new working place at the mini market in Kigali city

SYTRIECI continue campaigns to explain to the members about this change. These campaigns mainly analyze the advantage which the street vendors may derive from this new procedure if at least all this is put into practice. It is worthy to highlight that the good attempt to build markets in order to solve the problem of street vendors still poses challenges that effectively still ne to be met. On the one hand, the number of street vendors is too high compared to the markets that the Government has to build to their intention. Only 12 markets are already completed. On the other hand, street vendors are usually devoid of financial means besides their other multiple difficulties amongst other, managing their households. In addition to this, there are problems related to the practicability of these new procedures. Indeed, any change requires time to achieve effective results.

Success will also require and especially putting together the efforts of different stakeholders. The education and practical training must also continue to be considered for improving the results.

However, SYTRIECI needs always the experiences of others in order to be able to carry out its actions in the place of the street vendors and other workers in the informal economy. The means, being substantially limited, the combination of efforts remains a priority for our Union, but also requires an assistance on the part of our partners.

Negotiations and Strategy course for the organizers and leaders of street vendors and informal markets workers

24 August, 2016

By Sibailly Douhoure, StreetNet Organizer

A group photo of all the participants attending the seminar

Forty three delegates seventeen of whom were women came mainly from Monrovia and Paynesville to attend the seminar funded by Cities Alliance in collaboration with WIEGO /StreetNet. This activity was organized from 8 to 12 August, 2016 in Monrovia by NAPETUL (National Petty Traders Union of Liberia).

The seminar was facilitated by Dale Forbes, South Africa and Sibailly M. Douhouré, StreetNet Organizer.

This course endowed the delegates with the following negotiation skills:

  • How to negotiate successfully?
  • How to keep members involved in the negotiations process?
  • How to follow up negotiations?
  • How to draft a simple agreement?
  • How to enforce negotiated agreements?

For each topic, working groups were formed and allowed to deepen the discussions that were presented during the plenary sessions. Simulations were carried out to negotiate between local municipalities and NAPETUL.

Pictured are: (from right) Dale Forbes, South Africa and Sibailly M. Douhouré, StreetNet Organizer

As a practical exercise, a negotiating team consisting of five leaders of NAPETUL with Dale Forbes met with Madam  Mvogo,  Mayor of Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) in order to initiate discussions on the current Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), existing between MCC and NAPETUL. Unfortunately this formal discussion was interrupted due to the MCC. The practical exercise on negotiations with the Paynesville City Corporation (PCC) did not occur. The PCC was not available at the time of the seminar.

The minutes of these negotiations sparked heated discussions and helped to draw lessons for future real negotiations.

Participants of the seminar while working on their task

The seminar enjoyed the participation of the local representation of Slum Dwells International (YMCA Alliance) which took the opportunity to make known the concerns of their community.

In a written statement the participants expressed their concerns about the status of MoU with the Monrovia City Corporation and the Paynesville City Corporation.

Komi Kessouagni: "There is a need to reinforce the StreetNet Regional Focal Point and its responsibility regarding the affiliates"

22 August, 2016

Pictured is Komi KESSOUAGNIKOMI MENSANH KESSOUAGNI, the Secretary General of the Union of Vendors of Construction Materials of Togo (SYVEMACOT) and Coordinator of the StreetNet Regional Focal Point for West and Central Africa emphasized on the progress made since the last StreetNet Congress in 2013.

Comrade Komi comes from Organization which is a founding member of the National umbrella organization of workers in the informal sector of Togo – FAINATRASIT, grouping twenty three membership and union organizations of Togo, working in the sectors of handicraft, market and informal economy.

The West and Central Africa Focal Point numbered up to thirteen (13) affiliated organizations of the following countries:

Democratic Republic of Congo: 2 (LDFC & ASSOVACO), Burundi: 1 (SYVEBU), Rwanda: 1 (SYTRIECI), Togo: 1 (FAINATRASIT), Benin: 1 (UNSYNVEPIB), Senegal: 2 (CNTS & SUDEMS), Niger 1 (FENASEIN), Guinea: 1 (CNTG), Liberia: 1 (NAPETUL), Ghana: 1 (IHVAG), Sierra Leone: 1 (SLeTU).

Comrade Komi notes that the Regional Focal Point (RFP) faces both challenges and successes.

"The main challenge of the RFP to enable a fluent communication among the affiliates in the region is keeping a directory in which we will have telephone and fax numbers, Po Boxes, E-mail addresses, Skype contacts, Facebook addresses etc.

All affiliates can be joined on Skype. I am saying this because still at our meetings in 2012, all the participants received the Skype software compact disk in order to install it. We also talk about video conferences and did dozens of such communications with affiliates from Senegal, Niger and Guinea. Due to some training in English, the RFP has a fluent communication with English speaking countries. At the moment the focal point should be able to start communication between the affiliates who have already set up their Skype. The RFP is in continuous Skype communication with the Regional Organizer Sibailly Douhoure and Wisborn Malaya, who is in charge of the RFP for Eastern and Southern African region" , – underlined the Coordinator.

Pictured are union members during the National seminar for the market vendors and craftsmen with participation of the Mayor and the FAINATRASIT President in Togo

According to the Coordinator Komi, the Work Plan of the RFP has succeeded up to 75% taking into account the main challenges they face, but there is always a space for improvement if all the members are willing to work hard and jointly.

Regarding the recruitment of new affiliates, there is also some progress. Two new affiliates from Burkina Faso and Nigeria will join the RFP for West and Central Africa.   The recruitment of vendors of the markets, craftsmen, and trades in the informal sector is always on the RFP agenda.

Comrade Komi noted that they are also working on organizing young people and they require at least 30% of youth by country in the branches after every activity the affiliates hold in their countries. The motivating force of the members by sensitization and training of youths has been also shown.

There was a huge step forward with the «New Manifesto Campaign » and the launching of the «Guide for the New Manifesto Campaign».

The Day of November 14 became a real Day for the actors of informal economy to express their concerns and demands. Five of the managing members of FAINATRASIT had followed the linguistic training in English to facilitate exchanges with English speaking affiliates.

There is also some development of social and solidarity economy initiatives by creating a health care and tontine mutual.

However, Comrade Komi suggests "reinforcing the Focal Point and its responsibility regarding the affiliates".

He recommends the following:

  • To improve the communication between the affiliates in the region
  • To set a regional training of affiliates and allow exchanges during the training;
  • To enable affiliates to be trained in French language for English speaking countries and English for French speaking countries to avoid the language barrier;
  • To admit  responsible of the focal points’ coordinators in the international council to serve as a bridge between the executive and the affiliates;
  • To support training projects on the role and responsibilities of the members of the executive board of affiliate organizations;
  • To support the training, sensitization, and a Health care credit and savings mutual for a better living of the affiliates;
  • To create a network of focal points in view to share challenges and improvements in the region.

In conclusion, the Coordinator Komi KESSOUAGNI stated:

"We are exhorting officials and managers in charge of the affiliated organizations to work hard for better working conditions of the informal sector workers, since our country is moving towards the formalization according to what came out of the 104th Session of the ILO Conference in 2015".

Interviewed by Oksana Abboud, StreetNet Media Officer, August 2016

“No city can be inclusive, equitable and sustainable without the inputs from the informal workers!”

15 August, 2016

By Oksana Abboud, StreetNet Media Officer

Pictured is Juliana Brown Afari during her participation in the PrepCom3 in Surabaya, Indonesia

Juliana Brown Afari, StreetNet Vice-President and WIEGO Board Member talks about her participatory experience in the third session of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom3) of the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), which was held in Surabaya, Indonesia on 25 -27 July, 2016 at the Convention and Exhibition Hall Grand City Convex Surabaya.

The United Nations General Assembly, in Resolution 67/216, decided to establish a preparatory committee to carry out the preparations for the conference open to all Member States of the United Nations and members of specialized agencies and of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Preparatory Committee (PrepCom), following the same resolution, had three meetings (PrepCom1, PrepCom2, and PrepCom3) before the opening of the conference. PrepCom1 was held in New York, the USA in September 2014, PrepCom2 was held in Nairobi, Kenya in April 2015 and PrepCom3 was held in Surabaya, Indonesia in July 2016.

WIEGO as an international network focused on securing livelihoods for the working poor, especially women, in the informal economy and a close StreetNet ally, has been working to ensure that the voices of informal workers, and the visibility of their challenges, are represented. Thus, as a result of WIEGO and partners’ efforts, the informal economy is significantly represented in the Zero Draft of the New Urban Agenda.

Pictured is Juliana Brown Afari together with other representatives of informal economy sector during the PrepCom3 Meeting in Surabaya, Indonesia

Juliana Brown Afari had a good chance to participate in the PrepCom2 as well as in the PrepCom3 Meetings while being a member of WIEGO Delegation to the Preparatory Meetings before the HABITAT III Conference.

According to Juliana, the Prepcom3 Meeting was educative, full of opportunities to acquire new knowledge and experience, to take part in hot discussions and interact with different stakeholders who have different mindset and views to the related issues.

“It is very important for all the informal workers to be part of and participate in such a high level discussions because informal workers are honorable workers and have a lot of issues that need the attention of our governments. There is no country that can develop without the informal sector workers, who should be part of issue about the cities they want to see and live in the next 30-50 years.

No city can be inclusive, equitable and sustainable without the inputs from the informal workers.

Informal workers are recognized and given the opportunity to speak about the issues themselves and the opportunities to improve their livelihoods. Definitely it should be a proper dialogue and negotiation between the informal street vendors and hawkers so that the New Urban Agenda is ensured to be inclusive and covers the urban poor needs”- emphasized Juliana.

She also stressed that street vendors have to ensure that their demands, such as: right to vend in public spaces, stopping evictions, simplified regulation for informal cross-border traders and others are reflected in the New Urban Agenda which will be adopted in HABITAT III Conference in October 2016 in Quito, Ecuador.

“That’s why: Nothing For Us Without Us”, – concluded Juliana.

WIEGO, after participatory consultative processes with membership-based organizations of urban informal workers, developed its Policy Document on Implementing the New Urban Agenda, which clearly guides what do urban informal workers need from both local and national governments. The Document also indicates on common and sector-specific needs of urban informal workers.

To download the Document, please click here: http://wiego.org/sites/wiego.org/files/resources/files/WIEGO-MBO-Demands-PrepCom3.pdf