IFWEA Essay Competition “Worker education for building democratic participation” 2018 by Amar Kharate – Runner up YGAP 2018 Scholarship

“How our education project helped build democratic participation” by Amar Kharate
StreetNet-Organiser & Media Officer / Region- Asia  

“Target participants are core of the any education projects. It leads to towards the contain of the
course. Hence mapping out learners is base. Education project that enables people to face
governance process for betterment is always good. There are different types of people in the
society from different class, race, religion, gender and others. The main chunk of the society
are workers. Formal and Informal economy workers are contributing to the society.

However, lower rung of the people are beggars, poor, oppressed women etc. and most of them fall under
informal economy. But heterogeneity of informal economy has always been without basic
structure of the work standards. Projects based on informal economy workers bottom-up
approach for capacity building is important. Education level wise these workers are not literate,
less literate and semi-literate. Falling in the work type like domestic workers, waste pickers,
street vendors, mobile vendors, home based workers, textile workers, transport workers,
farmers and many more itself has non-standard.

Informal economy worker’s rights are being crushed on name of no law and no set of standards.
Injustice to the workers through low wages, no social protection, harassment by government
authorities, without contract and law gives advantage for people who hire these workers. In
such cases women are more exploited. Informal economy workers miss Identity as a worker.
Targeting informal economy workers in education projects for capacity building has been one
of the challenge to many organisations. If the education is available, time availability of the
leader as a worker is missing. One of the challenge in educating workers of unorganized
workers that they are daily wage earners and it becomes difficult for them to leave days of
earning and joining education trainings.

Women those into in to informal economy as street vendors have been part of the education
project. This project was leadership in the street vendors sector with one of the organisations.
Furthermore, it goes to the community level where these workers will implement their course.
Learners will have layer of the leadership in the process. They will share their knowledge. This
will cover not only front tire of the leadership in the organisation but lower tire too.

Involvement in the process of the capacity building for negotiation skill. This is based on the
how learners take it forward with the phase wise education course. In all the three phase same
participants are involved. With respect to the course participants target group are themselves
workers. Their own understanding about the problems and rights as a worker gets the shape
through this education courses. It is not only benefit as a worker but as women too.

All the participants were above 18 years of age for the course. They were mixed crowd with education
level. They do labours work for 12 hours a day. These participants were sharing same problems
like bullying behaviour from the government authorities. It is through confiscating their
products, asking money from these workers it includes government authority, goons and bad
people. Their product might be different like vegetable vendors, cloth shops, cold drink shops
etc. but space problem has always been the issue. Their relocation and eviction are an issue.

It is necessary to bring workers together through education course to shape up their mind to deal
with issues that their members face. Support to get identity as a worker is missing in this
participants case. So from non-recognition to recognition is of it challenge they face every day.
Thinking from their perspective gives and idea about how democratically and collectively they
will up lift the course. The further more discussion about democratic participation evolve
around it.

Unorganised workers participation of explaining their own struggle and sharing it with others
gives support feeling to themselves. Further similarities and differences of their struggles and
problems boost the interest in democratic participation. The first point of knowing exploitation
methods that are being used by owner, employer, government authorities gives sense of
democratic participation into issues to these learners.

Micro issues are crucial to the learners. Finding out procedure on the problems that are really
troublesome make this group work democratically. For example tasks to work in group where
topics like what will be the issues that are being faced by street vendors at local level, state
level and national level. With this divide the group to discuss and present it. These groups will
sit together and will have brainstorming discussion amongst themselves. Power dynamic and
it’s use as the person who has more power and another individual who has got the less power
in pair group.

This gives idea to the partition on how power dynamic works. This is not only
to tell participants to work in pairs but introducing them to explore strength power in unity.
Desired democratic participation in solution is vital process that they hold in their minds.
Solutions to their problems, strategies to be used, resources that can be utilized, methods on
incorporation of the other stakeholder’s democratic process for participants. Demand as a
worker is first step that takes place. Getting the power to other workers in collectively bring
the democratic participation. Discussing into different groups with touching upon the topic they
face. For example, letting know the situation on who are buyers for street vendors, duration of
their work, how do they solve the problems when they face it. Knowing about the law,
knowledge and communication where how to speak with the stakeholder is important process
of the democratic participation.

The participation becomes more interesting when getting to know purpose behind the joining
large organisation. What that it drives this worker to join organisation and hence their mind
opens to the new idea on how they do it collectively; Participation is more depend on the what
activities are being followed. Like if it is more towards reading and writing few can exclude
from these activities and can remain silent. So more on using resources that can be beneficial
to the participants and can make them friendlier.

In the next discussion it is explained how vital resources and activities is important.
What resources and activities in the course helped to improve their participation are crux of any
education project. Understanding their education level becomes more pro activeness for an
organization that organise such projects. Mixed crowd with education level from illiterate to
literate makes resources use in the project. Resource such as using computer, electronic devices
are some times difficult for participating mainly to less literate to technologically challenged
people. However, not to forget if they can be taught on how to use particular task on such
devices it can be far more reaching. If sharing information virtually may have impact to vast
majority of the people. But, more more time consuming for them as to acquaint with the
technology. Curiosity helps participants to improve their participation.

If we consider about illiterate or less literate participants the manual hand written activities are
much helpful. They can talk and write. This traditional way gives them platform to express
themselves more deeply. Their participation goes more as on only they can just write it down
their own thinking.

Activities such as individual activity to write down or express through sharing in the audience
increases the participation level in the education project. Interactive activity in pair group is
the form that participants know each other in better way. The more impressed and improvised
activity is to divide in the pair to the participants. For example After making pairs giving them
a task to show employer harassment treatment to informal sector workers. I this case steer
vendors will will think a government as an employer, domestic worker to their each house
employer, home based workers will consider contractor who gives them work. Craving by one
participants to the other participants to show harassment in statue form gives participants more
chance to open up their mind in time frame.

Hence, it is necessary to have bottom up approach from participants point of view to use
resources and activity that suits them. Drawing activity in reality can also be use in real work
for campaigning. And showing them by education project on how to use it becomes effective.
Such pragmatic activities improvised participants involvement in education projects. After
having course methods to know about course can be different. Like direct talk, course feedback
form, using colour card board to write down about the course. So lets say having red and yellow
card paper. On red participants can give feedback about what they do not like and
improvisation. On yellow card they can give what do they like and recommendation.

Hence, Course feedback from participants always helps course to develop more. Handing over
mics to the participants to express their feedback is quickest way. Having discussed about
above resources and activities it finds participants impressive and interactive with enjoyable

Not forget that some participants who are into informal economy express concern about the
day wage. Providing wages through calculating their average wage from which participants
will give more attention in the course. This will also be helpful for participants to take care of
their travel expenses from hole to the course venue and back. This will increase the number of
attendance in some level.

It is also important to think about time for time scheduling course. This how with participants
those are married. Their home chores to husband’s reaction to the time in course worries these
attandnce. Participants saying on bringing their children are positive. While attending course
children do colour sketching or drawing with pencil engrossed child.

In conclusion the education projects that has been developed for informal economy workers it
must to think that literacy level. The grasping power on certain issues that can touch upon their
livelihood related issues. What demands they will have. What solution can give a course to
their problems. The support system through their implementation on the ground. Their
collective approach. How stakeholders will bear them in the mind. What quality should one
acquire to get the negotiation process. What information will someone has for development?

Not to forget, people who join organisations always look forward to give something to their
participants. In negotiation course their confidence boost with talking and presenting their
points. One of the feedback was to it is really nice experience of having platform to talk together
about our concerns in the education course. It feels special about that even if government does
not give us recognition but organisation holds us like we really get an opportunity to express
ourselves. Education projects that takes care of participants always holds the true sense in it.

The feedback on reflection about the whole education course for themselves so that they can
go home and read it for themselves. In the feedback talking about how one can use the strategy
with their learning will give better picture for the course to improvise. Its not only about
participants will do the actions in exact time frame but with rough time their feedback from the
progressive steps will speak. Many learners do believe that they once equip with the skills they
can work for change.

It is part of the such projects that they now do not have fear for police,
government authorities, an individual who holds the power around the local area. In increases
their level of self confidence and energy. With the support they get the overwhelm for that.
However, they also ask for more such type of education course in different issues. The main
point that is to have clear picture in the mind about progression of participants with time goes.

The same participants when they meet again they get the sense of achievement due to course.
Learners are very much enthusiastic to participants on the course that speaks about them. They
are interested to have more and more knowledge that equips them with skills. And last but not
the least they use their skills in their day to day activity after workshop.”