The delegates of StreetNet’s affiliate organizations met in Kigali, Rwanda, from the 1st to the 6th of May, 2023 for the 7th StreetNet International Congress , to exercise democracy, solidarity and accountability.
The International Congress is the supreme governing body of StreetNet, which meets every four years in a different country and region of the world and is composed by StreetNet leadership and delegates elected by each affiliate. In 2023, Congress took place in the Hotel Lemigo, in Kigali, and our affiliate SYTRIECI was our host. The International Congress was attended by 139 delegates from 49 countries, 60% of which were women, 14 invited international guests, 4 youth reporters, 10 team members and 10 interpreters.
Power In Solidarity
The theme of the 7th International Congress was “Power In Solidarity”, a powerful rallying cry that mirrors the experience of StreetNet in the last four years, which had a tremendous impact on our members across the globe. According to International Coordinator Oksana Abboud, “We brought this theme because so many things have happened such as natural disasters, war, conflicts, and we saw so much solidarity among our members, which gave us hope and strength to continue our struggle and resistance!”.
During the Congress, delegates had the opportunity to meet each other, often for the very first time, and there were many opportunities to exchange ideas and experience, learn from each other and also have fun together to strengthen unity spirit.
Group pictures of the delegates at Hotel Lemigo
Celebrating International Workers’ Day together
Delegates from all over the world came to Kigali to celebrate the International Workers’ Day (May 1st) prior to the start of the Congress. On the same day, we also had the opportunity to visit the city and learn more about the history of Rwanda by visiting the Genocide Memorial and honoring the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
The celebration of International Workers’ Day took place at the Agaciro Market, where the delegates were received in a joyful atmosphere by the local women vendors. The President of StreetNet International, Lorraine Sibanda, and the General Secretary of SYTRIECI, Jeannette Nyiramassengesho (also StreetNet current treasurer) addressed the audience stressing the importance of collective struggles and bringing words of solidarity from all around the world.
Before the official opening of the Congress, delegates had also the opportunity to learn about the outcome harvesting methodology for monitoring and evaluation of social impact activities by participating in a workshop facilitated by expert Carmen Wilson of WIEGO.
Reflecting on the past four years
The opening ceremony of the Congress was live streamed on Facebook, featuring trade union leaders from Rwanda and StreetNet leadership, including founding Coordinator Pat Horn. We also had the opportunity to see traditional Rwandan dancers..
Delegates then considered reports presented by the President, the International Coordinator and the Treasurer. This moment is particularly important for affiliates, as they get the chance to ask questions, raise concerns and hold in-person debates about the work of the organizations since the previous Congress, four years prior. “It gives members a sense of ownership, to have these processes” explains StreetNet President Lorraine Sibanda.
Workers’ democracy in action
The Congress has two main priorities when it comes to governance: vote for the new leadership and pass new Constitutional amendments and resolutions.
In order to facilitate this process, it was proposed by the StreetNet Executive Committee to appoint three commissions that would carry out technical work on various aspects of the democratic process. The Credential Commission (composed of 3 delegates) was tasked with counting the number of delegates and making sure that each of them was eligible to have the right to vote. The Electoral Commission (2 people) had to manage the process of counting the ballots, checking the results and ensuring fairness and transparency process. Finally the Resolution Commission (composed of 5 people) had to analyze all the proposed resolutions and constitutional amendments and propose them to the plenary in an appropriate form, so that they can be discussed and voted on.
“Fine democratic procedures in a workers’ organization is fundamental, because if we are trying to change society, we also need to run our organizations in a way that is democratic, accountable, and that talks to the needs of the members.” says Jane Barrett, a Chair of the Electoral Commission.
Electing the new leadership
The newly elected International Council
The Congress elected the President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and eleven additional members of the International Council. For what concerns the office bearers, three of the four previous bearers were confirmed in office: Lorraine Sibanda (Zimbabwe) as President, Alberto Santana (Dominican Republic) as Vice-President, Jamalladdyn Ismailyov (Azerbaijan) as Secretary. Jeanette Nyiramassengesho (Rwanda) was elected as Treasurer. Thanks to the efforts of the Electoral Commission, composed of Jane Barrett, expert consultant from WIEGO and Jordi Musoni, from the Trade Union Center of Rwanda, the elections went smoothly. Here are the new elected leaders of StreetNet:
- Mwijuka Jesca UMAEU, Uganda
- Kashiwa Lameck, AZIEA, Zambia
- Gbenga Komolafe, FIWON, Nigeria
- Maya Gurung NEST, Nepal
- Anthony Kwache, KENASVIT, Kenya
- Afiavi Anastasie Chodaton, SYNAVAMAB, Benin
- Martha Garcia Santoyo, FNOTNA, Mexico
- Alice Nkunzimana, SYVEBU, Burundi
- Jose Herminio Diaz, FESTIVES, El Salvador
- Jorge Antonio Peralta, FENTRAVIG, Guatemala
- Tamara Bodnari, MBS, Moldova
“I hope that being elected for the International Council means I will be able to defend the workers’ rights at the global level,” said Jorge Peralta from Guatemala, one of the new members elected during the 7th International Congress. “And that we can finally be recognised – as people and as workers”.
The plenary during voting
Adopting and extending Resolutions
Prior to the Congress, affiliates had the opportunity to propose resolutions and constitutional amendments, which were carefully analyzed by the Congress Resolutions Commission in Kigali.
During the Congress, delegates also had the opportunity to participate in parallel thematic commissions on just transition, social protection, social solidarity economy and social dialogue. The
work of these Commissions resulted in additional resolutions proposals and enriched the knowledge of the delegates. “The climate justice session helped me to have a better understanding of the meaning of climate change,” said Alice Nkunzimana, SNI International Council member from SYVEBU, Burundi. Regarding another session, delegate Vorn Pao of IDEA, Cambodia, adds: “Social protection exists in different sectors but as StreetNet affiliates we still need to advocate for street vendors and informal sector inclusion”.
With the tireless assistance of the Resolutions Commission chaired by Sonia Georgia, of SEWA (India), the 7th International Congress passed resolutions on solidarity for workers and health and safety in the workplace. It also extended previous resolutions on climate change, social solidarity economy and social protection.
Nothing For Us Without Us!
The 7th International Congress demonstrated that StreetNet is an established and mature global alliance of informal economy workers. Over its 20 years of existence, we have continued to grow and expand, but our spirit remains intact. And so we will continue to work together to make our motto come true: “Nothing For Us Without Us!”