Addressing the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Needs of Informal Workers: Market Traders and Street Vendors in Accra, Ghana

                                                              

Addressing the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Needs of Informal Workers: Market Traders and Street Vendors in Accra, Ghana

Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO)
Solution proposed by: 
WIEGO: Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing
In a Nutshell: 
To achieve better health and safe working conditions, and a working relationship with local government and city officials, the market and street vendors of the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area, with WIEGO’s support, used a two-pronged strategy, negotiating for the bottom-up through capacity-building and top-down through networking and government engagement.
Where and When: 
The activities described took place in Accra, Ghana, from 2003 to 2014.
Challenges: 
Occupational Health and Safety Issues • Poor drainage and waste disposal resulting in disease, sickness, intolerable smells, flooding • Frequent fire outbreaks • Inadequate lighting and storage facilities, criminal activity • Harassment, destruction of goods, physical abuse, and imprisonment from local government officials • Physical and psychological issues resulting from above issues Institutional and Governance Issues • Misuse and embezzlement of the revenue from the markets • Patronage and deferring to people in authority • Street vendors lack information about the local government system, the roles and responsibilities of representatives and of city authorities and their own rights • Lack of institutionalized channels of communication between local government and traders
Innovation: 
WIEGO developed a strategy to address traders’ issues via a bottom-up and top-down approach. The former involved a series of capacity-building workshops to broaden the traders’ knowledge in regards to their legal rights and obligations, the various resources they can access, and health and safety strategies regarding conditions in the market. Workshops also prepared them for dialogue sessions that put them in touch with city authorities. For the latter, WIEGO exerted pressure through examination of law and policy and through various connections in international organizations.
Concept: 
After a WIEGO-supported study looking at the occupational health and safety risks as well as the major institutional challenges informal workers face, the traders and WIEGO came to the conclusion that, in order for traders’ occupational health and safety needs to be addressed, they first needed to first tackle underlying governance and institutional challenges with pressure from below as well as from above. This included providing the traders with the knowledge, skillsets, and self-confidence necessary understand their rights and engage with local authorities through proper channels to make their voices heard. It also meant networking and alliance-building with various national organizations in order to address the laws that impinged on market and street vendors’ ability to work. WIEGO hoped that their bottom-up and top-down approach would exert pressure on Accra’s governing authorities on multiple levels, thus making it impossible for the issues of the market and street traders to be ignored.
Description: 
To implement the bottom-up part of the strategy, WIEGO, together with the Institute for Local Government Studies (ILGS), began by disseminating information to the traders’ associations and to give them the requisite skills to engage effectively and proactively with the local authorities through a series of workshops on various subjects, such as the structure and functions of Ghana’s local government; occupational health and safety; advocacy skills; networking and alliance building; leadership; public speaking; basic book-keeping and records management; and so on. Additionally, WIEGO and ILGS organized “clinics” with officials and experts to have in-depth discussions with the traders on how to deal with officials of the Ghana Revenue Authority in relation to income tax and VAT, the functions of the local government, and the relationship that should exist between traders and their local government. Furthermore, WIEGO and ILGS organized dialogue sessions between the traders and officers from the National Board for Small-Scale Industries, the Ghana Revenue Authority, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, the National Health Insurance Scheme, among others. Meanwhile, to exert pressure from the top, WIEGO was working with strategically chosen institutions, such as the ILGS and the Ghana TUC. ILGS is an institute for training the staff of the local government service and for researching local government issues and was well positioned to take the findings of this partnership further and to bring to the attention of local government service staff the importance of informal traders. With Ghana TUC, WIEGO researched and analyzed labour laws, AMA by-laws, and others that impinged on informal workers. The Ghana TUC, its affiliate members, and nine other informal workers’ associations are in the process of forming the Council of Informal Workers Association (CIWA), which is well positioned to support the traders in their struggle for recognition and for safe and healthy working conditions.
Impacts: 
• Workshops and dialogue sessions increased traders’ confidence, assertiveness, and public speaking abilities; • Traders are more aware of health and safety issues such as personal hygiene, are registered with the National Health Insurance Scheme, and know how to control small fires; • Sessions on basic bookkeeping, financial management, and credit improved traders’ savings; • Workshops and dialogue sessions with city authorities and service providers have reinforced the importance of mobilization, networking, coalition-building, and direct representation in local government structures, which traders have achieved on Gender and Children Sub-committee of the Assembly and the Unit Committee (community level structure of the local government system).

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Credit: M. Chen/WIEGO