Street vendors representatives meet for their regional meeting in Kampala, Uganda

By Irene Doda
July 4, 2024
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this article was written by Uthman Kaisi, youth reporter and media activist (Malawi)

StreetNet International affiliates from Southern and East Africa gathered in Kampala, Uganda for their regional meeting, from 18th to 21st June 2024. This meeting was hosted by Workers in the Informal Economy Network Uganda (WIENU), which is theStreetNet affiliate in Uganda.

On 18th June, the meeting started with the welcome remarks from Jescah Mwijuka, the president of WIENU and a StreetNet International Council Member. This was followed by the remarks by Biringwa Richard, General Secretary for National Organization of Trade Unions.

After the introductory remarks, the participants joined a virtual workshop on the SNI African Regional Platform of Demands on Social Protection, which was presented by Laura Alfers from the WIEGO Social Protection team.

Comrade Jescah Mujka, from WIENU and International Council Member of StreetNet

The central role of social protection

Throughout the meeting, the issue of social protection produced many discussions which led to participants coming up with their thoughts and experiences on the matter. The issue is affecting almost all informal economy workers in every country.

“We looked at the issues which are relevant to us and tried to come up with a draft on how we can address those challenges, especially on social protection. We also had time to learn from each other and also appreciate what other countries are doing to address issues affecting workers”, said Matilda Mpho Matoteng from Botswana Informal Sector Association (BOISA). 

In addition to that, Kwache Anthony, from KENASVIT – Kenya, also International Council Member for, StreetNet said:“The issue of Social protection is an important issue to look into as it is affecting informal economy workers across the regions as well as the continent as a whole and I am sure that as we go, the members will put a lot of effort so that we can come up with the demands on Social protection on a Regional Platform that will also be helpful to the members”.

The affiliates at work

Discussing a common strategy

For the duration of the gathering, participants were allocated into groups to discuss a Regional Strategy for 2024 – 2027. At this time, participants identified strategic priorities, collective action points, and identified who will support the efforts proposed. After the discussions, participants came up with Recommendations for the upcoming SNI strategic Plan 2024-2027.

Subsequently, the groups agreed to have as priorities advocating for ratification of ILO Convention 190, implementing ILO Recommendations 204 and 202, on Social Protection, Climate Change and Violence & Harassment. 

“The most important thing about the Regional Strategy that we crafted is that it actually highlighted the important areas to focus on. This will also help us to align our cooperation in our countries to the regional strategies for us to reach our objectives.” Tangeni Shindondola from Namibia Informal Domestic and Allied Workers (NIDAWU). 

StreetNet Global and regional reports were presented to the participants by the International Coordinator, Oksana Abboud, and Organizer for East and Southern Africa, Jane Masta. 

Participants of the meeting were also given an in-depth understanding of the media and how it ist important to use it in their organizational works.

“Today we have noted that media is very important and we should use the media in our organizations, hence increasing our visibility. This includes the use of Facebook, X formerly Twitter, WhatsApp as well as Websites so that people out there should know what we are doing as an organization,” said Mwanda Chiwambala from Malawi Union for the Informal Sector (MUFIS).

Mathokoza Sikhondze from Coalition of Informal Economy Association in Eswatini (CIEAES) added that the meeting was very important because it stresses that traders are also workers as any other

Stronger together

“The meeting was organised to help us bring together and study the differences and the hardships that normally faced by the informal economy workers across the countries. This also made me to realize that, the informal traders are almost facing the same challenges: It is better that we are together and we can put it in one basket and look into it together,” said Mathokoza.

“The meeting was fantastic since it was full of collaboration, sharing different ideas and coming up with solutions which can help us grow as a region,” added Witness Mwijiake, who is a Regional Focal Point representative for East and Southern Africa, from TUICO in Tanzania.

Members also had a chance to visit some markets in the city and hear from the traders in the market, some of the challenges they are facing as they are in their working places. They had the opportunity to enjoy a Cultural Night and witnessed the launching of the Social Protection Scheme in Uganda which is led by WIENU.