In Southern Africa the informal sector is a key component of each country’s economy. It comprises mostly of workers who are self-employed or who work for those who are self-employed. Given the nature of poverty in Southern Africa, this sector is dominated by women working in unprotected and unsecured places and are thus are exposed to many risks. In spite of this vulnerability however, these women lack access to policies and programs designed to reduce their vulnerability.
Today, social security systems in the Southern African region are largely targeted towards workers in the formal sector. Ironically, those excluded from the scope of formal social security are often the most vulnerable and economically marginalized and therefore those who are most in need of social security. This issue is of particular concern in the region as the vast majority of workers in Southern Africa are located in the informal economy.
Further to this, in most countries for which data disaggregated by sex are available, the share of women in informal employment far outnumbers that of men. The feminization of poverty, combined with discrimination by gender, age, ethnicity or disability, means that the informal economy comprises the most vulnerable and marginalized groups of society. Additionally, gender inequality is more prevalent in the informal economy, where women are concentrated in lower quality jobs. There is therefore a need to develop positive strategies to combat the various forms of discrimination to which female informal economy workers are particularly vulnerable in the sector. Unfortunately, however, due to the nature of the informal sector, it is difficult for the actors in this sector to come together and discuss and receive information on policies and programs designed to reduce their vulnerability. This project therefore seeks to use the opportunity presented by the upcoming 63rd CSW platform whose theme is “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls” to contribute to fill this gap.
CUTS intends to mobilise women working in the informal economic sector (i.e. informal traders, domestic workers, rural women farmers among others) to put the issue of social protection on national, regional and global agendas with a view to contributing to closing the glaring gender gap in this field. Due to the nature of the informal sector, women who participate in this economy have always been vulnerable and without a platform to come together to voice their concerns regarding the issues they deal with in their work environments. The focus of the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women this year therefore creates an opportunity to amplify the discussion of the issue of women’s social protection in the informal sector as its credence at the global level can create the basis for the discussion at the national level.
This project will therefore seek to empower women who work in the informal sector to demand social protection by organizing a platform in Zambia for women across the Southern African region to come together and agree on a common narrative pertaining to social protection. The project will then facilitate the women’s participation at various forums at national, regional and global levels such as the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women, to amplify their voices on this issue and bring to light the issues that women in the informal sector have with regards to social protection, as well as advocate for gender responsive policy and practice.
- Create a database of women’s organizations working in the informal sector in the region
- Support national dialogue meetings for women working in the informal sector (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Namibia, and Botswana).
- Support post CSW national and regional campaigns and convening’s.
- Develop policy briefs detailing case studies of the different country experiences of women in the informal sector.
- Design and publish the policy briefs.
- Host a regional dialogue meeting in Zambia for women in the region working in the informal sector.
- Draft a common position on social protection for women in the informal sector based on the outcomes of the national and regional dialogue convening’s.
- Develop and produce various IEC materials to inform a campaign post the CSW.
- Facilitate the participation of 5 women and 1 CUTS staff member (representatives of rural women farmers, domestic workers, informal traders among others) at the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
- Draft an outcome document of the meeting and publish it online.
- Support CUTS participation at the regional OSF meeting on informality to be hosted in 2019.
- The project implementation partner is the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA). OSISA is a Southern African organization which “collaborates with other organizations on issues surrounding the rule of law, democracy building, human rights, economic development, education, the media, and access to technology and information
- the establishment and continued use of a database of all key women’s organizations working in the informal sector before and long after the conclusion of the 63rd CSW.
- Participation of representatives of women working in the informal sector from key sectors and countries at national , regional and global levels;
- Side event hosted at the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women amplifying southern African women’s voices and an outcomes document produced and circulated widely;
- Participation of women in different for a advocating for improved social protection in the informal sector;
- Position paper on social protection in the informal sector in Southern Africa drafted and adopted by women in the informal sector and used as an advocacy tool post CSW;
- Development and production of policy briefs detailing the different social protection country experiences of women in the informal sector and being used as advocacy for policy change; and
- Campaign on social protection supported by well-develop ICC and other tools and materials.