Statement on International Women’s Day 8 March 2019

Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) joins the rest of the world in commemorating the International Women’s Day (IWD) and for women in Zimbabwe, the day comes with nothing to celebrate.

IWD 2019 which is being held under the theme: “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change”; comes when Zimbabwe’s informal sector from where more than 60% of women get livelihoods and employment is under attack from the central Government and local authorities. Since august 2018, VISET has seen an increase in state sponsored attacks on women who are in the informal sector in joint operations between the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the military and council police.

Consequently, informal sector workers especially women have been attacked and lost their wares and trading spaces in violent crackdowns. Women have been the soft targets and scenes of women vendors with children on their backs being beaten by police have scared the national conscience.

VISET hold that the policy makers are missing the tree for the forest as they engage in counterproductive Russian roulette with people’s livelihoods through senseless clampdown on the informal sector. What is needed therefore is engagement so that the informal sector can have supporting legislative provisions.

Recently the Harare City Council declared revenues of more that $1.5 million from the informal sector and acknowledged it has potential for growth, ZimStat (2017) stated that over $10 billion is in circulation in the informal sector while 96% of women obtain livelihoods from the informal sector.

All these figures indicate serious economic activity which should be supported by the government. As such VISET gives the following solutions as part of policy alternatives:

Formalisation of informal sector
VISET has made endless calls for authorities to commence policy processes of formalising the informal sector. This process entails overhaul of legislative and policy frameworks which militate against growth of the informal sector such statutes criminalising informal sector activities and lack of infrastructural support for the sector.

Prioritising women in distribution of informal sector opportunities
Women constitute the vast majority of informal sector workers (65%) and as such when vending stalls and other informal sector opportunities arise, authorities must prioritise women in the allocation of the same.

An immediate end to victimisation
A day before the IWD (7 March 2019), dozens of women were attacked by armed riot police in the Central Business District of Harare of simply selling their wares so that they take care of their families. As VISET we repeat our call for the government to end with immediate effect victimisation of street vendors which has women as the soft targets of callous state sponsored violence.

Inclusive financial support
The Women’s Bank should be inclusive in allocating of resources and support women who are in the informal sector especially in rural and peri-urban areas. VISET is committed to ensuring that gender equality prevails in the informal sector at all levels and has since set up a department to specifically address the issues of women in the informal sector as they are unique and require innovative solutions which are different from those of the mainstream.

Source: Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET)