This blog post I’d like to draw attention to WIEGO, or Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing. WIEGO is a “global action-research-policy network” seeking to improve the status of the working poor in the informal economy, especially women. The concept of “informal economy” is defined as a diverse set of economic activities, enterprises, and workers that are not regulated or protected by the state, leaving them vulnerable to rights abuses and unsafe working conditions. The informal economy constitutes half to three quarters of the non-agricultural labor force in developing countries. When agriculture is incorporated, that number rises to as high as 90% of economic activity in certain African nations. The core of WIEGO’s mission is to empower these workers, under the belief that equal economic opportunities and rights should be available to all.
After hearing Keshet Bachan’s lecture on the impact of ICT’s on adolescent girls in developing nations, I began to realize how vulnerable women in particular are to injustice and malpractice in the informal economies they generally occupy. While informal economies are linked both with poverty and economic growth, human rights regulations are incredibly necessary in these fields to ensure that abuses do not go overlooked, and exploitation can be avoided. WIEGO’s particular focus on “waste pickers”, or those who do the primary collecting and sorting of waste materials in developing countries, provide a great example of laborers who suffer in the “informal economy”. While waste pickers provide widespread benefits to their communities, municipalities, and environment, (in many countries providing the only form of solid waste collection), they face low social status, poor living and working conditions, and little support from their local governments.