The Social and Solidarity Economy and why it matters for informal economy workers

By StreetNet Media
December 8, 2023
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StreetNet organized an international workshop in Brazil from 14-16 November 2023, about the Social and Solidarity Economy. The workshop focused on its importance for the organizations of informal economy workers and participants had the opportunity to learn from each other.

A growing priority in the labour movement’s agenda

The Social and Solidarity Economy has become increasingly important in recent years for the labour movement. The International Labour Conference considered it a viable solution to re-balancing economic, social and environmental objectives, according to a Resolution passed in June 2022. In 2023, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on “Promoting the Social and Solidarity Economy for Sustainable Development”. 

At the 7th International Congress in Rwanda, StreetNet also adopted an updated resolution on the Social and Solidarity Economy. This resolution commits to supporting affiliates to establish social and solidarity economy units, such as cooperatives.    “Cooperatives are a tool for liberation” explains  Vice-President Alberto Santana. “The members of a cooperative have a commitment to always improve because they are investing their resources. It is also a democratic tool,  because everyone participates and holds each other accountable”.

The opening of the international workshop proved the importance of this topic for the labour movement. It included the contributions of Ari Aloraldo from CUT Brazil; Ivan Gonzales of CSA-TUCA; State Secretary Gilberto Carvalho of the  National Secretariat for Solidarity and Popular Economy of the Labour Ministry of Brazil and Simel Ensim from ILO Coop.

An opportunity for reflection and learning

International Council members Anastasie Chodation, Jorge Peralta and Marta Santoyo presenting the results of their reflections during the workshop

The workshop involved the International Council members, affiliates with experience in the development of social and solidarity economy units – SEWA (India) and FIWON (Nigeria). It also featured allied organizations with valuable best practices to share, including the Union of Popular Economy Workers – UTEP (Argentina) and Brazil’s National Movement of Recycled Material Collectors – MNCR. It also featured a presentation by Leandro Morais, of the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy (UNTFSSE).

President Lorraine Sibanda with speakers Jaya Vaghela and Alex Cardoso from SEWA and MNCR (Waste Pickers National Movement) and Regional Organizer Patrick Kane

For participants, it was a valuable moment to understand all the work being done across the world. For Savita Patni of SEWA (India), it was a great experience. “At the StreetNet workshop, I realized that in many countries different organizations are fighting for the rights of working people and succeeding”, she stated. “When I go back to my organization, I will share this information with all my SEWA sisters”.

“It is very important to see these examples from other countries and realize that we are not alone”, adds Yvonne Aparicio of UTEP (Argentina).

We also had the opportunity to visit Coopamare, an impressive cooperative of waste pickers in São Paulo, Brazil. We learned first-hand the difference it can make when workers come together and create social and solidarity economy alternatives to systems that exclude them. 

Participants at Coopamare cooperative in São Paulo

The start of an important work at the right time

For Federico Parra, WIEGO’s  Social and Solidarity Economy Specialist who facilitated part of the workshop, it’s clear from the workshop that many affiliates are already focusing on the social and solidarity economy. He believes StreetNet can defend the interests of street vendors in key spaces, such as the ILO or UN. “It is important to share these StreetNet experiences with other global nets of informal economy workers” he adds. “The future of the social and solidarity economy has an important support in StreetNet at all levels”. 

Participants of the workshop discussing together

The international workshop closed with the joint development of a StreetNet strategy for the social and solidarity economy.  This strategy includes StreetNet taking on an advisory role for affiliates and facilitating exchange of information. We can also assist with peer-to-peer learning between affiliate organizations. Our work is only starting and it is clear this will be a priority in the years to come!

Celebrating November 14 – International Day of Street Vendors

In Brazil, we also had the opportunity to celebrate together the International Day of Street Vendors, November 14. In our ceremony we heard from President Lorraine Sibanda, Vice-President Alberto Santana and Secretary Jamaladdin Ismayilov, as well as two woman leaders of our Brazilian affiliate UNICAB: Márcia Medeiros and Valdina Silva. You may watch the full ceremony live on YouTube, hosted by International Council member Mwijuka Jesca. 

Participants at the celebration of November 14th, International Day of Street Vendors

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