In June 2022, the 110th Session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) is being held in a hybrid format due to COVID-19 restrictions. During the round of negotiations in June, a general discussion on Decent Work and the Social and Solidarity Economy will take place with the intention of agreeing on a common definition.
During the ILC two-week sessions, a delegation of workers representing the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers, the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF), HomeNet International, Self-Employed Women Association of India (SEWA), StreetNet International, and WIEGO will participate in the virtual meetings to bring the voices and experiences of the most marginalized workers to demand principles and practices that respond to their particular needs and demands.
Together, organizations of workers in informal employment across the world are committed to making decent work a reality for ALL workers. There is a need to recognize alternative models of work and production, equitable and redistributive, that recognize and value all forms of work – including informal work. Experience has shown that bottom-up models – such as cooperatives, mutual societies, and associations in the social solidarity economy – contribute to reducing inequality.
The transformation required to achieve such a model is overdue.
This year’s general discussion at the 110th International Labour Conference on Decent Work and the Social and Solidarity Economy should build on the principles for an inclusive definition that recognizes the crucial role of workers in informal employment, with an emphasis on supporting diverse social and solidarity economy models as key drivers of economic and social development.
My name is Jemimah Nyakongo. I am an International Working Committee member of HomeNet International, a global network of home-based workers collectively representing over 600,000 home-based workers. I am a home-based worker myself from Kenya and chairperson of HomeNet Kenya.
SSE is a very important topic of discussion for home-based workers – as well as other workers in the informal economy such as street and market vendors, waste pickers, domestic workers amongst others- as many of us organise ourselves as cooperatives, self-help groups, mutual benefit trusts, producer owned companies and many other forms of SSE. Our organizations are owned and run by the workers in a democratic manner. We are not a social enterprise and definitely not a corporate social responsibility. We are a democratic organisation which is owned by workers and operates to benefit them.
In Kenya and other countries in our network, home-based workers make many different products, with craft and agricultural products being especially important. Our SSE organizations where we work collectively help us share resources, access markets, train us in new skills, support each other and in the absence of formal employment provide us with a livelihood. Our organizations in fact were the only form of organisation which could provide us with work and income during the pandemic. They gave us emotional and practical support.
Forming SSE organizations is a way of helping us transition from the informal to the formal economy in line with ILO Recommendation 204. We can gain formal recognition, engage in social dialogue and collective bargaining, begin to access social protection as well as micro-finance towards sustainability.
We face many challenges including the difficulties of accessing markets and sustaining our organizations. We need an enabling environment for development and sustainability: we need supportive legislation and policies, financial support, support for training and upskilling. In addition to government support we would welcome support from, and strong cooperation with, our sisters and brothers in the trade union movement.