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Feminist Approaches to Labour Collectives (FemLab.co) is a seed-funded initiative by the International Development Research Center (IDRC), Canada, as part of their Future of Work series. This project builds on an understanding of communicative ecologies of women in specific sites of informal labour to explore how digital platforms can be leveraged by them to share grievances and communicate directly to the top of the supply chain, allowing their voices to contribute to the governance of the future of work.

The overall objective of the initiative is to support the collective agency of women workers at the bottom of supply chains leveraging on new digital tools and include them into larger conversations on working conditions and supply chain transparency. With ethical and responsible design based on participatory and feminist approaches and informed by the voices of the most vulnerable stakeholders, platforms may be harnessed to enhance representation, share information, to connect and collectivize women workers in a changing and increasingly precarious labour market. This presents opportunities for workers on platforms, as well as those in traditional workplaces to utilize technological advances to advocate for better conditions. 

This initiative will start with a focus on 5 sectors (construction, sanitation, garment, home-based salon services, and petty artisanal work) in India and Bangladesh where low-income women workers have a significant presence. Using ethnographic approaches, the team will gain an understanding of the realities of their work lives, and the existing and potential strategies of organizing themselves to improve working conditions.

We will examine closely the design and deployment of digital platforms that serve as intermediaries for such employment and the new digital collectives in this gig economy that have a distinctive gendered dimension. These insights will be applied to 1) design ethical platforms, 2) create digital storytelling campaigns/ outreach, and 3) make accessible legal services via visual contracts/toolkits.

Insight: To build user and stakeholder insight through ethnographic engagement 

Engage: To make legal knowledge accessible through multimedia storytelling

Design: To guide in ethical design and deployment for empowering workers from below

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