Invisible Urban Women (ongoing)

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With the huge amount of fired workers, informal employment makes up a significant portion of the urban labour force and provides urban employment to millions of people, most of them women, yet they remain largely invisible and isolated.

Today, over half of female workers in most developing countries who work in the informal economy are involved in all kinds of remunerative work. The daily lives of these women range from tailors, domestic workers, cooks, cleaners, street hawkers, hairdressers, informal waste pickers, street food vendors, vegetables and fruits sellers, market women and so on. Some are self-employed while others are sub-contractors for an individual entrepreneur, contractor or larger firm or intermediary.

This photo essay explores how these women struggle to labor in the face of rising unemployment, highlight their daily challenges and how street vendors face issues with authorities who see them as a problem and cut them out of urban development plans. The work of women in informal economy is essential though largely invisible and unrecognized. They face many challenges; irregular work, delayed payments, rejected goods, harassment from touts or authorities, providing for their families struggling to stay out of extreme poverty and so on. National governments often don’t count them in employment data.

The informal female workers should be in urban and economic planning and to address the institutional barriers faced by the working poor. Organizing gives working poor women a powerful collective voice to gain greater visibility and to be heard by the decision makers who can affect their lives – on both a local and global level. Empowering these women has positive ripple effects in communities and societies.