Ms. Bijal Brahmbhatt is currently the Director of Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT). She is a civil engineer by profession and is a recognized expert in habitat improvement, community development and housing finance. She oversees the operations of MHT at the national level.
She has a proven experience in conceptualizing, planning, managing and providing support for slum up gradation programmes across India. She works on renewable and efficient energy issues for the poor with various stakeholders including the government of India and private sector.
Her professional experience focuses on a range of poverty alleviation issues, particularly with women, entrepreneurship, slum up gradation, water and sanitation, income and urban planning, housing finance, housing technology, climate resilience, participatory governance, etc. She has been representing MHT on several government advisory committees including expert committee on Rajiv Awaas Yojana, Affordable Housing Task Force by the Prime Ministers Office in 2008 and Steering Committee of Planning Commission for the 12th Five Year Plan.
She is on board of SEWA Grih Rin, a housing finance company for the poor women and is also as an Advisor to poor women credit-cooperatives.
Gautam Bhan is Senior Lead, Academics and Research, at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bengaluru. His work focuses
on affordable housing, urban inequality, social protection and southern urban theory. He is most recently the author of In the Public’s Interest:
Evictions, Citizenship and Inequality in Contemporary Delhi (Orient Blackswan/University of Georgia Press).
Jenna coordinates WIEGO’s Focal Cities Initiative, which provides research, capacity-building and advocacy support to informal workers’ organizations in five cities. She is an urban planner by training, and spent several years working with feminist organizations on community development initiatives in Costa Rica and Nicaragua prior to joining WIEGO. Her specific areas of expertise are in participatory planning, critical education, and inclusive models of urban economic development.
Martha (Marty) Chen is a Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and Co-Founder, Emeritus International Coordinator and Senior Advisor of the global network Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (www.wiego.org). An experienced development practitioner and scholar, her areas of specialization are employment, gender and poverty with a focus on the working poor in the informal economy. Before joining Harvard in 1987, she had two decades of resident work experience in Bangladesh and in India. Dr. Chen co-founded and, for twenty years, led the WIEGO network which is well known worldwide for its work to improve the status of the working poor in the informal economy through stronger organizations, improved statistics and research and a more favorable policy environment. Dr. Chen received a PhD in South Asia Regional Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. She was awarded a high civilian award, the Padma Shri, by the Government of India in April 2011; and a Friends of Bangladesh Liberation War award by the Government of Bangladesh in December 2012.
Shalini Sinha is India Country Representative for WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing). WIEGO is a global research-policy network that seeks to improve the status of the working poor, especially women, in the informal economy.
Shalini is based in India and her work focuses on developing and documenting decent work and livelihoods opportunities for women workers in the informal economy. ‘Home’ as a place of work is an area of abiding interest for Ms Sinha; she has worked on issues related to home-based workers for many years. Currently, she is developing a focal cities program for Delhi, which includes supporting member-based organizations of women informal workers in their capacity building and advocacy efforts at the city level.
Before joining WIEGO, Shalini has worked as an development consultant for over a decade, specializing in labour, gender and social development issues with several national and international organizations. Her most recent work includes an edited volume, Redefined Labour Spaces, Routlege, 2017
City Planning and Urban Informal Livelihoods
India in Comparative Perspective
The vast majority of urban workers in India today (nearly 80 per cent) are informally employed. The urban informal workforce is engaged in a wide range of activities from manufacturing in small family units, to services like domestic workers and electricians, to trade in small shops or on the streets, to manual labour, notably in construction, to transport workers. Women are a particularly invisible part of this urban work force as they tend to be home-based workers who produce goods and services in their own homes or domestic workers: neither group gets properly counted in official statistics. For the urban informal workforce, particularly the self-employed, city planning, policies and practices have a major impact on their livelihoods.
Informal workers are disadvantaged by city policies in a number of different ways. Many of them need to use public spaces in order to earn their livelihood. For example, street vendors need to vend in open air markets, transport workers and waste pickers need to use public roads. The transport system tends to work against them, since it is often too expensive given their meagre earnings and doesn’t allow them to carry goods, and walking on city roads can be hazardous, especially for women. Zoning regulations work against them as their home is often their workplace, especially for home-based workers and family enterprises. Most informal workers live in informal settlements and are often under threat of relocation, which destroys or undermines their livelihood opportunities. Women workers face special difficulties in informal settlements as shortage of water and sanitation means that they have less time to earn.
INHAF, the Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT) and Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) are planning two linked webinars on cities and informal workers in India. The first webinar focuses on how city plans, policies and practices impact and urban informal workers; and the second highlights the important role of how women informal workers, the difficulties they face due to their invisibility and the importance of urban policies which would benefit them.
Informal workers constitute the majority of the urban workforce, and population, but are at the periphery of city planning and policies. These two webinars will envision cities where the informal workers are recognized and become an important part of cities so that they have more secure and remunerative livelihoods and happier lives.
Panelists-Global Focal Cities Coordinator, WIEGO
Director, Mahila Housing SEWA Trust