Women Street Vendors In Narobi, Kenya
A Situational and Policy Analysis Within a Human Rights Framework
Street vending represents a significant share of the urban informal economy. Poverty and high levels of unemployment in Nairobi City have seen the number of women street vendors increase as they take up street trading as a means of survival and a livelihood strategy. However, there is limited understanding who the socio-economic characteristics of the women vendors, challenges they experience and the effects of the regulatory framework on their activity. The study used a human rights perspective to examine the situation of women street vendors because policies dealing with street trading should be based explicitly on the norms and values set out in the international law of human rights so as to promote and protect the rights of women street vendors. Data was collected from women street vendors who were purposively selected from the streets using interview schedules while interview guides gathered data from key informants in the public and private sectors. Data analysis employed quantitative techniques on the questionnaires and hypothesis testing and qualitative methods for content analysis.
Findings revealed that 68% of the women trade in perishables; they possess low skills and lack the level of education required for better paying jobs; 97% have no other sources of income apart from vending and 87% joined the activity because of poverty and unemployment. Other attractions of street vending were identified as its schedule flexibility and it requires minor financial input and the skills involved are low. They experience numerous problems including harassment through destruction and confiscation of their wares and operating tools, demolitions, beatings, arrests, fines and imprisonment, evictions and corruption particularly from the city authorities. As a result, they lose their wares, capital and livelihoods which subsequently exacerbate poverty and increases their vulnerability. They are further constrained by lack of access to a wide range of services including child care, public utilities (water and electricity), sanitation, garbage removal, storage, shelter and financial services. Their right to ply their trade is impeded by an inappropriate legal and regulatory framework that is not in line with the needs of the urban poor and which fails to give them legal recognition. The greatest challenge facing women street traders is with regards to site of operation and right to trading space which consequently impacts on their other rights due to constant harassment. The rights based approach to the problems of women street traders illustrates the need to respect the rights and fundamental freedom of women vendors allowing them to work in dignity, have a say in decisions that affect their lives and economic, social and urban policies are responsive to their needs and aspirations. The study recommends a national policy on street vending that respects, fulfils and protects the rights of vendors to carry on their activities without harassment, protect and expand their livelihood, improve public image and enable the integration of street vendors into the urban distribution system. This will assure the vendors to rights of a reasonable standard of living, food, housing, health protection, education and social security.