Women in vending have expressed an urgent need for government and local authorities to recognise and protect their social and economic rights.
Addressing vendors’ associations who convened for the informal organisations dialogue meeting held at a local hotel in Harare and organized by the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) in collaboration with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) and the Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) on 9 July, Mr. Malaya who is a member of the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA), said women are vulnerable to abuse despite being dominant in the country‘s fast-growing informal economy which is currently the largest employer.
Uncontrollable company closures and retrenchments have resulted in many people resorting to vending for survival with women dominating the sector. According to a survey conducted by the organization, around three quarters of urban vendors are women and of every 10 stationary vendors, seven or more are women who on average work for 14 hours per day.
“Vending is a survival strategy for women in urban Zimbabwe .This is a fact which must be supported by authorities through allowing them to keep trading so as to promote the economy to re-shape and sustain people ‘s livelihoods,’ added ZCIEA.
According to a senior researcher at the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ) Nyasha Muchichwa, discrimination within the labor market pushes many vulnerable groups into the informal economy and as a result women, youths and people living with disability are often clustered in its most marginalized segments. Therefore policymakers require a gendered lens in order to better understand the different needs and constraints of women and men.
A survey conducted by LEDRIZ shows that from 2002 to date, more than 55,000 workers have been retrenched and these workers have found their way into the informal economy. Urban vending has become the only surviving strategy at the moment for most urban women to meet their Daily Food Datum Line. Therefore the government, through responsible local authorities, should expedite the policies which promote and protect smarter vending. This must be a fair process which harmonizes legislation for vending with an inclusive approach that includes all stakeholders.
The vendors meeting came in the wake of developments at Town House where illegal vendors are being evicted from the central business district and being moved to the Council‘s 15 designated points. According to Mr. Machipisa, Harare City Council Informal Sector Development Officer, for one to be recognized as a legal vendor, a person must have a vending permit and be at a designated vending site marked by Council as noted in the Harare Vendors by-laws of 2014.
Clarity Sibanda is a freelance journalist and social and economic activist currently studying Sociology and Gender Studies. Her writing aims to achieve an egalitarian society which strives for gender and social equity.She also enjoys dancing.
All images by Clarity Sibanda