Urban Change Stories


Changing Policies and Practice

Throughout the global South, informal workers and urban policymakers and planners are jointly solving urban management issues:

  • In Durban, street vendors have worked with officials to map and address occupational health and safety in Warwick Junction—a process that will result in a safer market for vendors, officials, and the thousands of people who stream through the market each day.
  • In Faislabad, home-based workers with HomeNet Pakistan negotiated a water filtration plant at a location that served their needs in terms of distance and safety. The plant now serves 2,000 households.
  • In Pune, the waste picker organization SWaCH secured a contract for door-to-door waste collection services in Pune, India—reducing the cities emissions by 52,000 kg/year.


Changing Lives

Cities can experience profound change when working with informal workers—but workers lives can also be changed:

  • Better laws and policies result in more secure and safer livelihoods.
  • Social protections—like health insurance—help stave off financial disasters as a result of illness.
  • The respect of officials and the public result in increased worker self esteem.
  • Household incomes can improve and be more stable—necessities are met and children can be educated.

Since the inception of Inclusive Cities, we’ve been collecting stories about what citiesmembership-based organizations, and workers have achieved—and the struggles they continue to face.


Urban Change

Street Vendors of Sao PauloStreet Vendors in Sao Paulo (in Portuguese)

In this book, research numbers about street workers are presented through some personal stories of people living this reality and engaged to change it. This photojournal was completed in 2008 and contains a short biography of six street vendors and four activists of the subject.




Working in Warwick

Working in Warwick offers a fresh look at street traders’ lives, the role they play in city life and their contribution to the economy. It contains practical examples and aims to inspire other local authorities and planners in their dealings with the informal economy.




SWaCH Success Story:  Provide a Better Service, the Rest Will FollowProvide a Better Service, the Rest Will Follow 

In Pune, KKPKP has fought long and hard to bring about a gradual change in peoples’ attitude towards waste pickers. The struggle for rights took the form of public protests, campaigns and advocacy at the local and national level. Consequently, the Pune Municipal Corporation became the first government body in India to recognize the contribution of waste pickers to the economy and the environment, acknowledge their identity as “workers,” and endorse the waste pickers’ right to recycle value from discarded garbage.


Cleaning Up the WorkplaceCleaning Up the Workplace

Occupational Health and Safety is rarely considered in relation to informal sector workers, whose working conditions are largely invisible to the wider society where they provide critical goods and services. Through research and trainings, WIEGO has begun building a network of organizations that is raising awareness and defending the basic rights of workers for a clean and healthy working environment.


Empowering Organizations

Informal SectorBuilding Voice, Visibility and Validity

Through their work with Inclusive Cities partners, workers have built voice, visibility and validity in cities globally.





HomeNet Nepal Success Story:  Determined, Self-less LeadershipDetermined, Self-less Leadership 

Jyoti Mahila Samuha, a producer co-operative and member organization of HomeNet Nepal (HNN), is a testament to how important determined, self-less leadership is in running a group that can lift up its members and open opportunities for better lives.


HomeNet Nepal Success Story:  The Empowerment to Reach MarketsEmpowerment to Reach Markets 

Didi Bahini Sewa Samaj supports urban home-based workers through training, saving and credit services, and collective work opportunities that improve income. But equally important, the group creates a safe space for women to find mutual support and to build their confidence.



Finding a Collective Voice to Become Visible : The Creation of RENARECFinding a Collective Voice to Become Visible:  The Creation of RENAREC

After almost three years of continuous work, in July 2011, members of the RENAREC were able to celebrate an important organizational milestone: their legal recognition as a National Federation of waste pickers’ organizations – a goal that they set their eyes on soon after the network was established in December 2008.



Home-based Garment Workers -- the Impact of SEWAHome-based Garment Workers – the Impact of SEWA

There is arguably no greater gap in economic wealth and bargaining power than between the home-based garment worker and the owner of the large garment manufacturing or retail firm for which she produces. SEWA works with home-based garment workers to increase their incomes, improve their equipment, and develop their skills.


Home-Based Workers Raise Their VoicesHome-based Workers Raise their Voices 

HomeNet has built networks across South Asia and Southeast Asia to begin bringing the realities of home-based workers into the public eye. Through a series of events in 2011, HomeNet South Asia was successful in raising the profile of home-based workers in the national press in Pakistan, and building the confidence of workers to speak out about their situation


MUFIS Success Story:  Leading the Fight for LegitimacyLeading the Fight for Legitimacy

When the global economic downturn’s impact on the informal workers in Malawi went unreported and unrecognized, the Malawi Union for the Informal Sector – MUFIS – helped bring the issue to light, and street vendors took to the streets to demonstrate for their right to secure livelihoods.


Informal Sector -- Many Traders One VoiceMany Traders, One Voice

Through their experiences of organizing in the markets of Durban, leaders of the growing movement of street vendors have gained greater confidence in confronting city officials and increasing clarity on the role their organizations play in creating inclusive cities.


Informal Sector -- Saving the Mother MarketSaving the Mother Market

When a historic market in Durban, South Africa was threatened by commercial development, market workers and street vendors, with the support of Asiye eTafuleni, the World Class Cities for All (WCCA) campaign, and other local organizations, came together to defend the rights of vendors to public space and to preserve a historic city landmark.



StreetNet InternationaInclusive Cities Urban Story StreetNet Internationall: Organizing Street Vendors

Street vendors regularly confront harassment from police as well as difficult and insecure working conditions. The ability of street vendors to improve their incomes and working conditions increases when they band together.



Informal Sector -- SEWA Success Story:  Wanted: Space in the CityWanted: Space in the City. Waste Pickers Gain Ground in Munger, Bihar 

A group of impoverished waste pickers in Munger, Bihar, India organized to protest the demolition of their traditional homes to make way for a railroad overpass. Their lives and livelihoods were disrupted, and no suitable land offered. With the support of SEWA, the residents have taken their case to government officials for a year-and-a-half while living in plastic makeshift housing.


Informal Sector -- Waste Pickers Take the Global StageWaste Pickers Take the Global Stage 

The arrival of a strong, prepared and articulate movement of waste pickers to the UN climate change talks shifted perceptions. Prior to these events, waste pickers were invisible, both in relation to their role in urban environmental management, and in the negative impacts they experience from the extension of waste-to-energy projects. Waste pickers gained new levels of influence and visibility with support from Inclusive Cities and a growing alliance of organizations.

Workers’ Lives


God Is My Alarm Clock: A Brazilian Waste Picker’s Story

Dona Maria Brás was a tireless force in helping Brazilian waste pickers overcome persecution and gain respect and security as members of cooperative ventures.



Informal Sector -- Force of Nature Shataben, Vegetable Vendor and Defender of Workers' RightsForce of Nature Shantaben, Vegetable Vendor and Defender of Workers’ Rights

To meet Shantaben at her vegetable market stall in Ahmedabad is to encourter a force of nature.  This is a woman who has not just found her voice, but found the strength to speak out for the tens of thousands of vendors who struggle daily to earn a living in Ahmedabad.



Informal Sector -- SEWA Success Story: from Labourer to Master MasonFrom Labourer to Master Mason

Women make up 51 per cent of the workers in construction yet are paid a small portion of what men are paid. The story of Gangaben Vaniya shows how women can overcome this structural barrier through training and support from organizations like Mahila Housing Trust/ SEWA.



Headstrong: Profile of a Headloader in Ahmedabad, India

A leader among headloaders in Ahmedabad’s busy textile market, Shanta Bababahi Bhalerao knows firsthand how belonging to the growing SEWA movement can help lift a worker’s burdens.



Nohra Padilla -- Third Generation Recycler and Advocate for Organizing for the Working PoorNohra Padilla – Third Generation Recycler and Advocate for Organizing the Working Poor

Nohra was born into a family of recyclers (waste pickers), but when her livelihood was threatened she organized with her fellow recyclers to form a cooperative that struggled to make their voices heard.



WL4_Vryenhoek_thumbSmall World, Big Goals Profile of a Home-Based Garment Worker in Delhi

From her Delhi home, Farida-ben embroiders garments for foreign retailers. Denied an education and other options, she has done this work since she was a girl. Today, her membership in the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and her involvement with an ethical, SEWA-based producer company have expanded her world – and given her insight into the inequity of the global value chain.



Informal Sector -- SEWA Success Story:  The Journey of VarshabenThe Journey of Varshaben 

Young women have few opportunities to break out of the roles they are traditionally expected to take on in their families and as workers. The story of Varsha demonstrates how training through SEWA Academy allowed her to break through multiple barriers to become a confident professional and example in her community.


SWach Success Story:  Women Behind the WheelWomen Behind the Wheel 

SWaCH waste picker co-operative operates door-to-door waste collection for households in the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation. Waste-collection is done by independent teams consisting of two waste pickers and a driver. Each team collects waste on an assigned route from approximately 2000 houses every day.