Work Together (Archive)

WIEGO: securing livelihoods for the working poor in the informal economy

WIEGO is a global network focused on securing livelihoods for the working poor, especially women, in the informal economy. Since 1997, WIEGO creates change by building capacity among informal worker organizations, expanding the knowledge base, and influencing local, national and international policies. WIEGO is participating at the 104 International Labour Conference together with a delegation including the cooperative SWaCH from India.

26 May 2015

Today WIEGO is a network of 176 Individual and Institutional Members in 40 countries. Around the world, informal workers are forming cooperatives, pooling their energy, ideas and resources to gain mutual economic, political and social benefits. WIEGO supports this work through action-research projects, capacity-building among organizations, facilitating networking and solidarity, and supportive advocacy on both the regional and global stage.

The cooperative SWaCH (meaning “clean”) in Pune (India) is a solid waste collection and handling structure working very closely with WIEGO. Initiated as a pilot project in 2005, it is the first cooperative wholly owned by self-employed waste pickers and waste collectors. Through a contractual agreement with the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) signed in 2008, more than 2,100 SWaCH members provide door-to-door waste collection to over 360,000 homes in the city. The workers collect in pairs, are paid through user fees, and are accountable to the residents they serve, as well as to the municipality.

SWaCH has developed a significant composting operation, which sees wet waste turned into valuable natural fertilizer used on public grounds such as a university campus and a research facility. These efforts mean much less material makes its way to the municipality’s landfill. While the PMC covers administrative costs for SWaCH, purchases equipment (carts, gloves, etc.) and supports health insurance, its costs are far lower than if it paid for private, commercialized collection and disposal. The success of this integrated, decentralized solid waste management system in one municipal ward has led to its expansion into 15 more wards.