International Labour Conference 2022

Jemimah Nyakongo, HNI International Working Committee member and Chairperson of HomeNet Kenya addresses the General Discussion Committee on Decent Work and the Social and Solidarity Economy.

May 31st, 2022

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.