The 8th WIEGO General Assembly in Mexico City was a unique moment for informal economy workers to come together to discuss, exchange experiences and boost our unity! The General Assembly was attended by over 140 delegates (two thirds of which were women) from 39 countries, showcasing the diversity and strength of WIEGO as a whole.
The 8th WIEGO General Assembly took place in Mexico City, from November 12 to 14, 2022. The delegation from StreetNet included our President Lorraine Sibanda, Vice-President Alberto Santana, member of the Executive Committee Jeannette Nyiramasengesho and Communication Manager Margarida Teixeira.
The WIEGO General Assembly was an inspiring, insightful and motivating event for the full delegation. It fostered worker solidarity across different sectors of the informal economy and encouraged each delegate to participate actively throughout the programme.
We have compiled the main highlights of the WIEGO General Assembly, from StreetNet’s perspective:
Honoring Elaben Bhatt
During the entire WIEGO General Assembly, the memory of WIEGO’s and SEWA’s founder Elaben Bhatt was always present. Elaben, the gentle revolutionary, passed away a few days before the GA and all delegates honored her amazing contributions to the struggle of women informal economy workers. The altar to her memory served as a reminder of the core values of WIEGO of respect, democracy and integrity, according to which Elaben lived her life and inspired so many others to follow in her footsteps. We carry her legacy.
Election of new WIEGO Board members
The General Assembly considered several agenda items, one of the most important was the elections. It is important to note that during the GA it was decided that the constituency of membership-based organizations of informal economy workers, which previously held 3 seats on the WIEGO Board, now holds 4 seats to better represent the different sectors of the informal economy. During the elections, new WIEGO Board Members were elected, including StreetNet’s President Lorraine Sibanda.
Celebration of StreetNet’s 20th Anniversary and WIEGO’s 25th anniversary
During the WIEGO GA, StreetNet had a chance to celebrate its 20th anniversary, as part of the celebrations that also marked WIEGO’s 25th year. Lorraine Sibanda made a speech highlighting the important links between StreetNet, WIEGO and SEWA and invited all StreetNet delegates and affiliates to join her onstage. After, Margarida Teixeira quizzed the audience about their knowledge of StreetNet. The celebration night also included a cake with photographs of both SNI and WIEGO projected onto it, performances by Mexican dancers and a dancefloor!
Event highlighting street vendors’ sector of the informal economy
StreetNet co-organized an event along with Caroline Skinner – Urban Policy Director, Jenna Harvey – Global Focal Cities Coordinator; Carmen Roca – Focal City Representative; Dorcas Ansah – Accra Focal City Coordinator and Olga Abizaid – Dakar Focal City Advisor/Urban Policy Analyst, to present the work of StreetNet and also highlight the contribution of its affiliate organizations on issues related to right to the city and urban policies; social protection, such as childcare, and formalization strategies.
The event was designed to highlight workers’ voices, especially those of StreetNet, and therefore it featured as speakers our worker leaders Lorraine Sibanda, Alberto Santana, Jeannette Nyiramasengesho and Gabriela Calandria. Several StreetNet publications were also made available to the audience of the event, including reports on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and informal cross-border trade.
Learning more about street vending in Mexico City
During the General Assembly, we had the opportunity to learn more about street vending in Mexico City in two different days. On November 12th, we had the opportunity to visit Plaza Garibaldi, one of the main squares of the city, and interact with street vendors selling food, ponchos and other items. Some of them had already been compensated by WIEGO and offered their products for free, while others were selling their merchandise. The GA Delegates were encouraged to purchase their products as a way of showing support.
On November 14th, we also had the opportunity to visit tianguis, a Mexican word for open air markets. Our guide was Arturo Granados Frías, Secretary General of the Unión de Comerciantes y Tianguistas. Throughout the visit, he introduced different members of the organizations, explaining how they go about their work and common challenges. Members of the association that Arturo represents have special identification cards which help them not to be harassed by authorities. However, there is constant monitoring of their markets and Arturo, along with his comrades, has to make sure they are respecting the different regulations.
During the visit, Arturo also exchanged some ideas with SNI delegates, particularly Jeannette Nyiramasengesho, who encouraged him to look further into social solidarity economy schemes to support members.
Other SNI delegates visited different groups of workers, including waste pickers and vendors who work in the metro.
On November 11, before the official start of the General Assembly, the communication team of WIEGO prepared a full-day workshop about different aspects of communication. During the workshop they also launched the Communication Course on the platform RISE, which is expected to be a more accessible and engaging platform for workers’ education.
The WIEGO General Assembly was as a whole a fantastic experience to all delegates. We wish the new Board good work for the future and we will continue to strengthen our bond with WIEGO and with all member organizations of informal economy workers!
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