Informal economy workers of the world are united calling for a transformation of the model of work, stating: “The economy cannot recover without us!”.
Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) Network Global Solidarity Platform is an alliance of informal traders, home-based workers, domestic workers and waste pickers. On May 1, 2020 we issued the global joint statement “COVID-19 and the World’s Two Billion Informal Economy Workers”, calling on governments to partner with informal economy workers for relief, recovery and resilience efforts.
The statement was aligned and based upon three principles:
- Nothing for us without us, stressing the importance of including informal economy workers in decision-making processes that affect them directly;
- Do no harm, calling for a refrain from violence, harassment, bribery, forced evictions and demolition of workers’ assets;
- See the transformation, highlighting the need for a new model of work that is equitable and redistributive, and recognizes the contributions and values of all forms of work.
During the month of July, the global joint statement became the basis for the campaign 2 Billion Strong: Recovery Starts With Us, which intends to highlight the essential work performed by informal economy workers in various sectors and countries.
The first week of July was devoted to informal traders (street vendors, hawkers and cross-border traders) and informal economy workers’ alliances came together to share the work of StreetNet International and its affiliates through interviews, graphics and testimonies.
Lorraine Sibanda “Unless governments and stakeholders help and support informal economy workers, to transform and transition to formality, there will be no development”
Lorraine Sibanda, President of StreetNet International and the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations, talked about how life is very difficult at this moment for informal economy workers, and how this platform of organizations coming together represents support, solidarity, encouragement and motivation.
Lorraine reiterated how informal economy workers contribution to suppressing COVID-19 and collaborations with some governments demonstrate how workers are not a “public nuisance” or “criminals”, but “workers and eligible citizens who are also interested in the development of our countries”.
Lorraine stated that this is the time for meaningful inclusion of workers in all processes – “We need to be at the table and not on the table”.
Annie Diouf “We have the right to aid and we have the right to be supported”
Annie Diouf, Treasurer of StreetNet International and Confederal Secretary of the Informal Economy Department of the National Confederation of Senegalese workers (CNTS), shared the actions being led by workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seeing they were being left out of government plans, informal economy workers self-organized and presented the government with a document calling for aid and support. They took action “in the hope of being listened to, and heard, and assisted”, and are expected to meet with the Minister of Finance soon.
Oksana Abboud “Many jobs became so valuable. The jobs we have never thought about.”
Oksana Abboud, StreetNet International Coordinator, explained the importance of the global joint statement “which provides global voice, which demonstrates big solidarity and unity among representatives of informal economy workers organizations”.
Oksana highlighted how so many jobs, which were severely restricted due to lockdowns, were suddenly perceived to be essential, such as selling affordable food or collecting waste.
Oksana also stressed the importance of involving informal economy workers performing COVID-19 economic recovery plans. Without them and their essential work, the plans are expected to fail. Therefore, informal economy workers’ “voices should be heard, should be considered, to make sure that no one is left behind”.
Throughout July, organizations signatories of the global joint statement will be sharing each other’s work and calling attention to the situation of informal economy workers during the pandemic. WIEGO is also promoting a series of webinars highlighting workers’ initiatives to combat COVID-19 and ensure their rights.
The situation for informal traders in many countries is still critical. Now, more than ever, their essential contribution to social and economic development must be recognized. StreetNet International is mobilizing all their affiliates and supporters to promote the rights of street vendors, hawkers, and cross-border traders during COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and amplify our message.