The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA), has started a drive to mobilize Kampala Women street vendors into cooperatives, a move they say will improve on their standard of living.
SIHA is a network of civil society organizations from Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Somaliland, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Uganda, and, most recently, the coastal area of Kenya.
According to Hala Alkarib, the Regional Director for SIHA Network, the growing number of women and men vending on the streets reflects the rural economic crisis leading to rapid rural-urban migration and increased migration of communities of the urban poor.
During the launch of a research paper ‘The Invisible Labourers of Kampala’, Alkarib said Vending in Kampala especially women street vendors are confronted with layers of aggression and resentment from local authorities, shop owners and other traders, which exposes them to constant challenges and vulnerable to gross human rights violations and other serious risks.
“The rapid increase in women street vendors reflects the changing socio economic situation prevailing in Uganda and across the region.
“It further speaks on the lack of empathy and understanding from Government institutions regarding the impact of economic shifts on masses,” said Alkarib during the launch at Forest Cottages Naguru in Kampala.
She said the situation exerts enormous pressure on women as they are caught in a bind between patterns of extreme poverty and a faltering social welfare system. “This is worsened by harsh local government authorities that perceive them as a nuisance and a hindrance in the move towards urban planning and development,” she says.
Established in 1995 by a coalition of women’s rights activists with the aim of strengthening the capacities of women’s rights organizations and addressing women’s subordination and violence against women and girls in the Horn of Africa, SIHA has grown substantially and is now comprised of close to 75 member organizations.
Lowena Kagaba, who carried out the research, said women are into street vending because of lack of alternatives, poverty and low capital investment and family obligations.
She however cites challenges faced by women street vendors in Kampala as lack of social protection, challenges with products of trade, eviction, arrest and confiscation of property, relocation, sexual harassment and exploitation.