Front Cover
 Women as street vendors: Where,...
 The scope and unique challenges...
 Urban management of street vending:...
 Representation: A voice in urban...
 Promising responses and lessons...
 The road to recognition: Reform...
 Notes and references
 Back Cover

Group Title: Seeds
Title: Women street vendors
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00088789/00001
 Material Information
Title: Women street vendors the road to recognition
Series Title: Seeds
Physical Description: 24 p. : photos. ; 26 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Cohen, Monique
Bhatt, Mihir
Horn, Pat
Population Council
Publisher: Population Council
Place of Publication: New York
Publication Date: 2000
Subject: Street vendors   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 23).
Statement of Responsibility: by Monique Cohen with Mihir Bhatt and Pat Horn.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00088789
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 45275789

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
        Page 1
    Women as street vendors: Where, why, and how?
        Page 2
        Page 3
    The scope and unique challenges of street vending
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
    Urban management of street vending: Overlaps and gaps
        Page 8
        Page 9
    Representation: A voice in urban planning
        Page 10
    Promising responses and lessons learned
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
    The road to recognition: Reform and organizing
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
    Notes and references
        Page 23
        Page 24
    Back Cover
        Page 25
Full Text

-C 4

SEEDS is a pamphlet series developed to meet requests from all over the
world for information about innovative and practical program ideas developed to
address the economic roles and needs of low-income women. The pamphlets are
designed as a means to share information and spark new initiatives based on the
positive experiences of projects that are working to help women generate liveli-
hoods and to improve their economic status. The projects described in this and
other issues of SEEDS have been selected because they have served not only to
strengthen women's productive roles, but also to integrate women into various
sectors of development, both social and economic. All projects documented in
the SEEDS series involve women in decisionmaking, organize women locally, and
address broader policy issues that affect the economic roles of women.
These reports are not meant to be prescriptive, since every development
effort will face somewhat different problems and possibilities. Rather, they have
been written to describe the history of an idea and its implementation in the hope
that the lessons learned can be useful in a variety of settings. They are also being
written to bring to the attention of those in decisionmaking positions the vital roles
that women play not only in the economies of their individual households but also
in the economic life of every nation.

The Population Council provides project direction and administrative support for SEEDS. Editorial policy is set by
the SEEDS Steering Committee: Sajeda Amin (Population Council), Judith Bruce (Population Council), Marilyn
Carr (International Development Research Centre), Marty Chen (Harvard Institute for International Development),
Margaret Clark (The Aspen Institute), Monique Cohen (USAID), Nicole Haberland (Population Council), Ann
Leonard (Population Council), Cecilia Lotse (UNICEF), Katharine McKee (USAID), Aruna Rao (consultant), Sandy
Schilen (SEEDS editor), Jennefer Sebstad (consultant), Mildred Warner (Cornell University), and Corinne Whitaker
(International Women's Health Coalition).
This edition of SEEDS is made possible by support of the Ford Foundation and the Population Council.
Copyright 2000 The Population Council, Inc.

SPopulation Council
The Population Council is an international, nonprofit, nongovernmental institution that seeks to improve the
wellbeing and reproductive health of current and future generations around the world and to help achieve a
humane, equitable, and sustainable balance between people and resources. The Council conducts bio-
medical, social science, and public health research and helps build research capacities in developing
countries. Established in 1952, the Council is governed by an international board of trustees. Its New York
headquarters supports a global network of regional and country offices.
Population Council, One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, New York, New York 10017 USA; telephone: (212) 339-0500;
facsimile: (212) 755-6052; e-mail: pubinfo@popcouncil.org; www.popcouncil.org
Statements made and views expressed in this publication are solely the responsibility of the authors and not of any
organization providing support for SEEDS. Any part of this document may be reproduced without permission of the
authors so long as it is not sold for profit.

Women Street Vendors:

The Road to Recognition

by Monique Cohen
with Mihir Bhatt and Pat Horn


"There's the sticky-rice vendor." My mother knew, from the vendors' songs, the coded ca-
dence of their voices, the distinctively nuanced tap-tap-tap of their wooden sticks, what it was
they were hawking. There was no getting around the difficult makeup of their selling language
(Lan Cao 1998).
It is only when they are not where we expect to find them, when we expect to find them,
plying a particular path or occupying a particular spot, that we even become aware of the role
street vendors play in our everyday lives. In most cities, people's awareness of this trade begins
with an association with a seller of street food: a woman vending sataysticks in southeast Asia, a
vendor selling foul and ta'amia from a handcart in Egypt, a woman with a plate of freshly made
beignets or a bucket of roasted corn in Africa, a seller of roasted chestnuts and pretzels in New
York City. Other images of street vendors come to mind as well: women selling religious trinkets,
boys delivering newspapers, cigarette vendors, makeshift street stands offering great deals on
everything from T-shirts to books to the latest cassette tapes. And then there are the neighbor-
hood vendors of fruits and vegetables, ice cream, and household services who make their daily
rounds, their familiar cries echoing as they pass.
The symphony of alley cries from the secondhand clothes seller, the knife sharpener, and
the vegetable vendor reflects old traditions. In both industrialized and developing countries, street
vendors have long existed as purveyors of goods and services to a large public that spans class
and income. The integral role street vendors play in the daily lives of much of the world's popula-
tion stands in sharp contrast to the precariousness of their own lives, however. Street vendors
work in the informal sector, a large segment of the economy about which there is limited informa-
tion. As such, their enormous contribution to the economy has yet to be fully recognized by econo-
mists, urban planners, and policymakers.
This issue of SEEDS explores the experience of women working and organizing as urban
street vendors.' It is part of the SEEDS series on the economic empowerment of women workers
in selected occupations that employ large numbers of low-income women around the world. It
continues our exploration of how economically marginalized women are pursuing income-gener-
ating activities amid escalating global competition for access to markets, low-cost commodities,
and low-waged workers.
Too often, street vendors' rights to ply their trade are limited by regulation, harassment, and
new urban initiatives, making women especially vulnerable. As urbanization continues, both the
volume of demand and the number of vendors are expected to grow.2 Economic reforms and
downsizing in the public and private sectors over the past two decades have driven many new
entrants, often men, into this highly competitive market as jobs in the formal sector disappear.
This has affected women greatly, causing downward pressure on earnings and driving out the
weakest hawkers, who are usually women. These and other pressures help explain why the need
for women to organize as vendors has intensified so dramatically and why initiatives such as
those outlined in this issue of SEEDS are becoming linked internationally.


Women as Street Vendors:
Where, Why, and How?

Poor women in particular have always had
to work; in many cities around the world, they
work as street vendors and formal traders. They
are rarely included in a country's labor statis-
tics because they are far more likely to be work-
ing in the informal rather than the formal sec-
tor (and thus are not "counted" among the em-
ployed or economically active). Faced with a
paucity of statistics on street vendors in gen-
eral, and women hawkers in particular, it is dif-
ficult to quantify with any precision the extent
of female participation. However, walking down

the Prado in La Paz, visiting a market in Lagos,
or passing through a residential neighborhood
in Kampala confirms what we know: Women
supply visible and invisible labor in street
vending activities. Table 1 illustrates the im-
portance of the informal sector, and of women
in this sector, in selected countries of Africa
and Asia.
Street vending is one of the few readily
accessible avenues of employment open to
women who need to earn a living. The low cost
of entry into many types of hawking and vend-
ing as well as schedule flexibility is an attrac-
tive factor for some women. In addition, in
certain situations women actually inherit their

Table 1 Informal-sector activities as a percentage of total employment and GDP, and female informal
traders' share of informal employment and informal GDP in selected countries of Africa and Asia

Informal sector as a percentage of
Total trade Total
employment trade GDP

Female informal traders as a percentage of
Total informal Total informal
trade employment trade GDP

Benin 99.1 69.8 92.2 64.3
Burkina Faso 94.7 45.7 65.9 30.1
Chad 99.2 66.7 61.8 41.2
Kenya 84.9 61.5 50.2 27.3
Mali 98.1 56.7 81.3 46.1
Tunisia 87.6 55.6 7.9 4.4
India 96.4 90.0 12.4 11.2
Indonesia 93.0 77.2 49.3 38.0
Philippines 73.1 52.3 720 21.6

Source: Charmes 1999 (Charmes's personal compilation on the basis of official labor force statistics and national

vendor status. In Ghana, daughters often join
their mothers in business as adolescents, start-
ing, perhaps, with a basin of toiletries or other
goods, and gradually moving to a small table
and then a stall.
For some women, vending and hawking
are the only occupations they know, while for
others they are occupations of last resort. With
limited literacy and mathematical skills, poor
women have few alternatives:
I have been a vendor for some time, for
about five years. Before that, I worked at the
Ghana Commercial Bank as a subaccountant.
I stopped working at the bank because of my
ill health. Money was running out and then my
husband died and I decided to become a
street vendor I was unable to find another job
because of my weak eyesight.
Street vendor from Accra, Ghana
Gladys trades in Durban. Since her hus-
band left her she has been the sole breadwin-
ner in her extended family. Her youngest child
lives south of Durban with a friend. Two other
children are cared for by an unemployed sis-
ter who has four children of her own. Apart from
her friend, all of these eight people are depen-
dent on her for support (Lund, Nicholson, and
Skinner 2000, p. 14).
Street vending is an important domain of
poor women's economic activity that requires
endless juggling of family and work responsi-
bilities. Women traders perform many differ-
ent tasks in a day:

I get up between four-thirty and five
o'clock in the morning. (After caring for
three children under the age of three). .. get
to the bus station and arrive in town at
about eight o'clock. (After buying goods) ...
am at the trading site... trading by nine-thirty.
... At four in the afternoon I take my goods to
the storage space.... When I get home I make
supper and go to bed at eight or nine o'clock.
Street vendor from South Africa
In Mexico City, a survey of female street
vendors indicated that, on average, women
vendors are 27 years old and have up to three
children under the age of four. Childcare is a
constant problem for vendors: Many mothers
care for at least one of their children on the job
(i.e., on the street). Availability of childcare is
vital not only because it gives poor women
more freedom to earn a living wage, but also
because it protects the health and wellbeing
of their children, who otherwise may be ex-
posed to unsanitary conditions in the market.
The same study found very high rates of dis-
ease in Mexico City vendors' children-40
percent of children under the age of one and
21 percent of those older than two (Hernandez
et al. 1996).
Frequently women must leave or stop
work to handle family emergencies such as ill-
ness and accidents. In addition, women work-
ing long hours on the street are subject to pol-
lution from cars and motor bikes and, when
commuting home, face the usual threat of vio-
lence and sexual harassment common to low-

W PM r T- I W*-I I I -

income women living in marginal settlements
around the world.
Traditionally, the preparation and sale of
food has been an important source of income
for women. The Equity Policy Center's ground-
breaking study on street foods in the mid-1980s
showed that even when women did not own
and operate a business themselves, they were
still major contributors to its operation. Indeed,
male-owned enterprises generally depended
on the labor of women working at home for
many of the products sold (Table 2). This is
particularly striking for Bangladesh, Egypt, and
Indonesia (in fact, for all Muslim countries). The
typical scenario is exemplified by the lassi (a
drink made from yogurt) vendor in Bangladesh.
While the husband walks the streets with a
pushcart, his wife is in charge of the produc-
tion process at home. Similarly, in Tunisia
women still produce malsouka-fine pastry
dough used in brik, the traditional and popu-
lar Tunisian snack-at home while it is sold in
city markets mainly by men, who compete with
commercial firms.
Vending and trading, with some notable
exceptions, are seldom lucrative occupations
for women. Irrespective of gender, available
data suggest that even the more successful
street vendors earn an income that is at, or
close to, the poverty level.
If one measures economic success in
terms of expanding one's business, it is clear
that both the vending environment (an over-
supply of goods and vendors) and the small
scale of the businesses limit women's poten-
tial for upward mobility. Increasingly, expenses
and consumer resistance to price increases
reduce profitability for hawkers and vendors.
The high cost of credit is another constraint.
Once they enter this marginal economic world,

women experience limited opportunities for
building up the assets they need to help their
businesses grow. When there is growth-as
measured by hiring a part-time worker or ac-
quiring assets, including a house-it is very
slow and gradual. Some eventually leave this
subsector altogether.
Operating in highly competitive markets
and in environments where demand is con-
strained by limited purchasing power, women
traders often focus on reducing their vulner-
ability to crisis and economic shocks. Conse-
quently, not all women reinvest their earnings
in their businesses and instead apply them to
other asset-creating endeavors. For example,
many women use an intergenerational strat-
egy by which they maintain the original vend-
ing enterprise to ensure stable income and
then use the surplus to educate the next gen-
eration so that younger family members can
have access to higher-earning occupations.

The Scope and Unique
Challenges of Street Vending
Defining the Range of
Street-vending Activities
Although the terms "market vendor,"
"street vendor," and "vendor" are frequently
used interchangeably, closer scrutiny suggests
they all are very loosely defined, both across
and within cultures. In some countries, the term
"street vendor" covers marketplace vendors
as well as pavement sellers, mobile street hawk-
ers, and home-based vendors. In others, mar-
ketplace vendors are a separate category.
Street vendors may be legal or illegal: a pave-
ment seller in Abidjan pays a daily tax; her
counterpart in other cities does not. Some
street vendors are independent, while others

Table 2 Street food enterprises, by women's involvement (percent)

Owner or operator Enterprise with female assistants
City Woman Man Couple Paid Unpaid
Bogor, Indonesia 16 60 24 5 33
Chonburi, Thailand 78 22 13 31
Ile-lfe, Nigeria 94 6 19 15
Iloilo, Philippines 63 10 27 4 11
Kingston, Jamaica 44 46 10 -
Manikganj, Bangladesh 1 99 10 25
Minia, Egypt 17 83 1 34
Pune, India 13 87 33 51
Ziguinchor, Senegal 77 23 -25

Source: Tinker 1997.

Compared to male traders, women are
more likely to:
have lower levels of education, prior
work experience, and relevant skills,
be single heads of households and
main income earners;
have greater pressures on their time;
have less time: for trade, to learn new
skills, for leisure, and for sleep.

hawk merchandise for somewhat larger
microenterprises or nearby businesses. Most
women vendors are self-employed or hired by
others; very few employ workers themselves,
and, commonly, most have a minimal asset base.
Street vendors are involved in the entire
range of economic activities undertaken by
the working poor. They are not only sellers of
a myriad of goods-of which food, underwear,
toiletries, and car parts are among the more
obvious-but they also work as purveyors of
services including dental work, hair dyeing,
and financial services. The prevalence of
these trades, in business areas of the city as
well as residential neighborhoods, suggests
that significant amounts of cash flow through
this sector, even though the units of transac-

Intergenerational Growth
Maria has been a street vendor selling
staple food products for almost 20 years,
and she has been borrowing money from
Accidn Communitaria in Lima, a
microfinance institution, for nearly as
long. She first used her loans as working
capital for her microenterprise, which she
still operates on the same scale today.
Rather than expand her business or
manage more businesses, she has been
remarkably successful in using her loans
to launch each of her children in a
profession or business. Today three of her
children work as a lawyer an Air Force
pilot, and a social worker Several others
are self-employed owners of a print shop,
a paper goods store combined with a
beauty shop, and an appliance repair
business. The youngest son is
establishing a computer graphics and
photocopy business (Dunn 1997).

tion may be very small-a teaspoon of tomato
paste, one cigarette, or a piece of soap.
The contribution these hawkers and ven-
dors make to the economy stems from their
outreach to a dispersed clientele who value
affordable services available at their doorstep.
Compared to many shops located in low-in-
come neighborhoods, vendors often serve up
to three times as many customers, turn over a
comparable quantity of goods, charge prices
10-30 percent less, and offer flexible hours so
that customers can be served at their conve-
nience throughout the day. The persistence of
street vendors across cultures indicates that
they satisfy a very palpable consumer demand
via the units and prices of their merchandise
and services. For example, street vendors will
usually sell by the item-one apple, two ciga-
rettes, or one AA battery-which is a lifesaver
for low-income consumers who can't afford the
multiple-item packages sold in most retail out-
lets. Food vending is another activity benefit-
ing low-income consumers as it is often more
cost- and time-effective to buy prepared street
foods rather than shop for ingredients and cook
food at home.3

Scale of Vending
Although the magnitude of the street ven-
dor trade can only be approximated (Tables 1
and 3), evidence from India suggests it can
be significant. In the city of Ahmedabad, for
example, street vendors turn over more cash
than the textile industry (the city's major indus-

Table 3 Number of vendors in selected cities

1995 Number of
City population vendors
Bombay, India 15,138,000 500,000-2 million
Ahmedabad, India 4,000,000 6,000-25,000
Manila, Philippines 9,286,000 20,000-50,000*
Bangkok, Thailand 6,547,000 11,000-230,000
Nairobi, Kenya 1,810,000 40,000*
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 1,236,000 25,000
New York City 16,332,000 14,000*

* 1996 figure.
Sources: Bhatt 1998; United Nations 1995.

try). In Bombay they turn over more money than
Hindustan Lever-one of the largest corporations
in the city-and in New Delhi hawkers and ven-
dors contribute more than 50 percent of the city's
gross domestic product (GDP) (Jhabvala 2000).
However, as noted earlier, despite the
cumulative amount of money that changes
hands within the sector, most street vending
businesses remain one-person operations uti-
lizing unpaid family labor on an as-needed ba-
sis. Working in the family business can be part
of a clearly understood, if rarely explicit, re-
ciprocal arrangement and may offer some in-
dividuals no cash earnings of any kind.

Location Is Everything
As for most businesses, location is the
be-all and end-all of street vending. While lo-
cation will vary with the products sold and ser-
vices rendered, certain patterns repeat them-
selves across cultures. Marketplaces and bus

stops attract large concentrations of street
vendors; preferred downtown locations include
major thoroughfares and streets where pedes-
trian traffic is high and the sidewalks are wide.
Prevalent at these locales are the vendors of
low-cost apparel, small dry goods, snacks,
cooked meals, and services that can be pro-
vided quickly (such as shoe repair). As cities
expand, residential areas are also important
domains for vendors, particularly those who
sell fruit and vegetables. Newly paved roads
quickly attract new car and foot traffic and act
as significant catalysts for the growth of
microenterprise activity.
Although street vendor operations may
appear temporary or impermanent-flimsy
kiosks, shoulder poles, low tables, or a square
of fabric-there is rarely anything casual about
where and how a street vendor conducts her
business: the turf battles that ensue when an
interloper attempts to usurp a vendor's estab-
lished route or pavement spot are vivid testi-
mony to this "ownership." A vendor's location
is based upon the client base for her products
or services. Many clients are her peers: poor
people of limited means. Street food vendors
who sell prepared foods in low-income neigh-
borhoods and slum areas that lack cooking fa-
cilities are a good example. Vendors congre-
gate at work sites, transportation arteries, and
schools where they supply a captive audience
with snacks, cooked foods, and other items.
For each consumer group there is a peak
selling time. A Zimbabwean woman living in a

low-income neighborhood of Bulawayo pointed
out that she is busiest selling bread from her
home-based bakery from 5:00-7:00 a.m. and
from 6:00-9:00 p.m. Other vendors move from
site to site to reach more customers during
different times of the day. Vendors can also be
found in middle- and upper-class neighbor-
hoods. Here the number of transactions may
be fewer but the return is usually higher.

Regulation and Licensing
The term "informal sector" generally re-
fers to economic activities that are unlicensed
or operate without the requisite official permits.
Therefore informal-sector workers, both owner-
operators and their paid employees,4 are not
subject to national labor laws and rarely, if ever,
receive job-related benefits associated with
formal employment, such as sick leave, life
insurance, and holiday/vacation pay; nor are
they covered by job protection laws.
Large numbers of street vendors, indeed
the majority, are also unregistered. In central
Bombay, only 40,000 licenses have been is-
sued for a population of at least 200,000 ven-
dors; with approximately 16,000 street vendors
in New York City, only 850 permits have been
issued; and in Kuala Lumpur, no more than 40
percent of the 25,000 vendors are legally li-
censed to trade (Bhatt 1998; Hicks 1993).
In many cities the number of permits is-
sued for street vending is frequently capped
well below the number of active vendors, which
inevitably results in a disproportionately high
number of "illegal" operators.5 Some experts
like to argue that for many street vendors the
cost of a license (price plus opportunity cost
of the time it takes to get a permit) far outweighs
the benefits. Others, like Ela Bhatt, the founder
and former general secretary of the Self Em-
ployed Women's Association (SEWA) in
Ahmedabad, India, argue that a license is, in
fact, a business asset. Purchased for a price,
it can offer the vendor certain rights, in par-
ticular, protection against harassment and the
confiscation of goods, which, in turn, should
increase the vendor's productivity and profit-
Comparing the situation of a market ven-
dor, who has established rights to a fixed stall
within a municipally sanctioned marketplace,
to that of a street vendor, who squats on the
road outside that marketplace, highlights the
inconsistencies of regulation. The scale of the

operation of both market and street vendors
often differs little; both types of microenter-
prises tend to have low levels of capitalization
and tend to be one-person businesses that
generate small amounts of revenue. Frequently
the two groups compete as complementary
providers of goods and services in the same
commercial zone. In cities like Abidjan, Ivory
Coast, where tax collection has a long tradi-
tion, both the market vendor and the street
vendor pay a daily tax (droit de place) to ply
their trades. In other cities, the market vendor
pays a tax to vend, but her counterpart on the
street does not. Vendors operating out of their
homes, away from downtown areas, are sel-
dom affected by any regulations, even when
the area of operation is not zoned for commer-
cial activity.
In general, despite inconsistent regula-
tion, vendors occupying a space within a mar-
ket feel more secure in their access to this as-
set (even when they hold it only on the basis
of squatters' rights) than those on the street.
In other words, the important issue for vendors,
irrespective of differences in their operations,
concerns the municipality granting legitimacy
to one location and not the other.
Food safety concerns associated with the
cooked food trade present particular licens-
ing issues, and regulations here too are arbi-
trarily and unevenly implemented, resulting in
contradictory outcomes both for vendors and
society at large. For example, in Ecuador only
30 percent of food vendors have a vending
license, but twice as many (63 percent) have
health certificates. In contrast, in Colombia the

Women traders, compared to men, are
more likely to:
operate from an open rather than a
covered space;
operate from the street rather than a
cart or a stall;
operate from an insecure or illegal
trade in perishable goods;
generate a lower volume of trade;
work as commission agents or
employees of other businesses;
not employ other people; and
earn less.

ratio is 2:1 favoring licenses over health cer-
tificates (20 percent vs. 10 percent). In Peru,
42 percent of the vendors had medical exami-
nations and carried health certificates.

Urban Management of Street
Vending: Overlaps and Gaps

In most cities, the regulation of street ven-
dors is rarely the primary responsibility of any
one agency. This poses problems for the ven-
dors as well as for those responsible for regu-
lating them. In many municipal governments,
the following departments are involved:
Police handle the regulation and licens-
ing of vendors;
Department of transportation monitors the
obstruction of traffic flow;
Public works department oversees the
provision and maintenance of infrastruc-
ture; and
Health department is responsible for pub-
lic health and sanitation.
Not surprisingly, confusion and overlap-
ping responsibility are common, which often
puts the police in the unenviable position of
enforcing laws that are outdated and not in the
best interest of the vendors, the city, or its resi-
dents. While in some cities vendors are left alone
to ply their trade, albeit unlawfully, in others they
are subjected to periodic police action. When

accountability is unclear in the municipal sys-
tem, harassment of vendors by private or pub-
lic interests quickly becomes commonplace.
Logically, urban administrations would
have much to gain by locating the responsibil-
ity for street vending in one municipal office.
Taxing street vendors could result in a conver-
gence of many interests, among them the sur-
vival of vendors and enhanced municipal rev-
enues and management capacities. The fiscal
benefits that would come from more effective
collection of taxes or fees from street vendors
should not be underestimated. For example,
inefficiency in the Brihad Mumbai Municipal
Corporation's system is so great that for one year
in the 1990s the city earned only Rs1,200,000
(about US$28,600) in revenues from its tens of
thousands of street vendors and hawkers, a
fraction of what could have been earned.
By itself, the diffusion of responsibility for
street vendor activities within city government
is an incomplete explanation of why urban ad-
ministrations have failed to better manage vend-
ing activities. Corruption and political whims are
also explanatory factors that can be counter-
acted only by the strong political will of ven-
dors and city administrators (see box).

Newspapers are filled with articles about
the harassment of street vendors and the con-
fiscation of their goods. Justifications from of-
ficials commonly include obstruction of traffic,

Where Is the Money?
Built in 1972 to accommodate 400
vendors, the Owino Market in Kampala
houses 5,000 vendors and is the single
largest source of employment in
Kampala, providing work for 25,000
people. Stall rental fees provide the
Kampala City Council (KCC) with half of
its market revenues and 16 percent of
the KCC's recurrent revenues.
Meanwhile outside Owino's gates
and operating after 5 p.m. is an illegal
market. Large numbers of vendors trade
on the streets here with the implicit
sanction of local authorities. By providing
sanitation and waste collection services
and requiring each vendor to pay a fee
each evening to collectors appointed by
the Market Management Committee, the
KCC is, in effect, managing this trading
space as well as the market. However,
while revenues that totaled about ten
million Uganda shillings monthly were
generated in 1994, it is a mystery where
this money went. The general belief is
that it went to individuals in the KCC and
the Ministry of Local Government
(Gombay 1994).

trading in unauthorized space, and the ab-
sence of a permit or license. In some munici-
palities, policies regarding confiscation of
goods, fines, or jail terms for vendors are un-
clear or inconsistent. Not surprisingly, the police
even harass vendors who are selling legally.
Police will beat us, accusing us of sell-
ing stolen goods and taking bribes too. Some-
times, the municipal people will come and re-
move all our things in their van. Of course, we
get back the clothes after paying fines, but
even then, we suffer because all the goods get
mixed up and we have to sort them out. Often,
this starts a quarrel amongst ourselves.
Trader of old clothes
(cited in Bhatt 1998)
Although many vendors view harassment
and confiscation of goods as part of doing
business, in surveys it tops their list of griev-
ances. Among the 504 vendors in the fast-
growing town of Idar, India, 66 percent reported
harassment from three "responsible" agencies:

the Public Works Department, the Nagar
Panchayat officers (the unit of local govern-
ment), and the police.
Police harassment is not limited to goods
confiscation or clearing illegally occupied
space. Corruption is also significant. Paying
bribes to public and private interests is so wide-
spread there is a global vocabulary for it. Hawk-
ers in Kathmandu, Nepal, call them "private fees
for public space." Elsewhere bribes and pro-
tection monies are called "speed money," "gifts
of honor," "routine offerings," "dog feed," "pro-
tection fees," and "friendship fund." As a per-
centage of daily income, bribes can range from
a low of 3-4 percent of vendors' income in
Yokohama, Japan, and Chennai, India, to a
high of 6-8 percent in Bangkok, Thailand; Co-
lombo, Sri Lanka; and New York City.
Bribes can add up to substantial sums.
For example, Indian research has suggested
that in Mumbai, where 12,000 hawkers ply their
trades on suburban trains, the bribes paid to
railway officials coupled with those paid to
community extortionists (linked to gangs and
street-vendor organizations) total as much as
US$2,400 per month (Bhatt 1998).
Hawkers and vendors deal with these
various financial demands in different ways.
Some pay a one-time-only lump sum in cash,
others a regular monthly fee, and others a per-
centage of daily revenue. Payment in goods
and services is also common (a kilogram of
vegetables, a weekly basket of fruit, cleaning
the front pavement of a competing restaurant,
and so forth). Sexual favors may also be re-
quired, a problem specifically affecting female
vendors. No matter the form, bribes diminish
vendors' livelihoods and dignity.
Political opportunism can also lead ven-
dors to be targeted as easy scapegoats when
high-level officials feel pressed to show their
power or need additional resources. A mayor
of Mexico City exemplified this approach. Elected
without the vendor vote, he sent the police into
a downtown area "to reestablish, to recover, a
state of law" by arresting a few sidewalk ven-
dors and confiscating their merchandise. With
pride he proclaimed, "Mexico City has an ordi-
nance against sidewalk vending downtown, and
the law must be respected" (Berman 1998).

Access to Infrastructure and Services
Street vendors are also constrained by
lack of access to a wide range of services, in-

cluding childcare, public utilities (water and
electricity), municipal services (such as waste
removal and latrines), storage, shelter near
trading sites, and financial services. There are
endless examples of marketplaces and road-
side street vending areas that lack any basic
services whatsoever.
Infrastructure problems come to a head
in dealing with vendors of cooked food, fruits,
and vegetables. Food safety is usually the re-
sponsibility of municipal governments, and a
range of regulations, intended to protect the
health of consumers, governs vendor activi-
ties. However, in situations where levels of food
hygiene at home and on the street may be
equally precarious, the dangers of food con-
tamination are often ignored by vendors and
consumers alike. Nevertheless, the provision
of clean water, garbage-removal services, and
latrines near popular vending sites could
quickly improve the safety of street food. For
example, an investment in improving public
health following a cholera crisis linked to con-
sumption of ceviche (marinated raw fish and
a widely consumed street food) in Peru has
proven to be very effective.

A Voice in Urban Planning
Because most have little if any formal
education and work without the benefit of or-

ganizational representation, vendors are usu-
ally unaware of either their rights or their obli-
gations. There are particular difficulties in-
volved in organizing hawkers, including high
turnover, mobility, and scattered locations.
Their numbers, combined with their very small
scale of activity, require vendors to come to-
gether in some way if they are to exercise any
political clout. This is true whether the issues
to be addressed are at the neighborhood, city,
national, or international level.
What type of organization best serves the
interests of street vendors? Most associations
of vendors and hawkers limit themselves to
representing sellers at a single location or those
who sell a single type of commodity. Where
local community-based organizations have
been successful in organizing vendors by lo-
cation or along product lines, they often have
had a limited basis for collective action in terms
of broader citywide and urban policy issues.
Too often their leaders fail to see a convergence
of interest beyond their neighborhood. When
vendor organizations attempt to come together
to form federated bodies large enough to at-
tract significant political attention, they fre-
quently stumble over petty issues that prevent
them from becoming united. Hence success-
ful vendor associations seem to be more the
exception than the rule.
For example, in Manila a citywide ven-
dors' organization could not be sustained be-

Organizational Priorities Among Traders
Establish and defend legal rights
Set up effective channels to represent
Raise the profile of street traders and
protect their interests when policy is
Build leadership through empowering
Form alliances with trade union
movements and other external
Source: Lund, Nicholson, and Skinner 2000, pp.

cause, over time, members ended up compet-
ing with each other for the ideal location and
most profitable product and thus saw limited
gains from collaboration. Eventually, they were
able to come together around the need for
certain urban services, creating a cooperative
structure that provides vending-related ser-
vices such as water, credit, daycare, and pro-
tection against threat.
Despite the inherent obstacles, when
unity is forged, it can be a very effective tool in
assisting vendors to demand better services
and treatment by the authorities. Organizations
are crucial in providing vendors with access
to information-in usable and appropriate
forms-and offering affordable legal represen-
tation to vendors facing harassment. In addi-
tion to advancing vendor rights, effective or-
ganizations have gone a step further and now
regularly engage in dialogue with municipal
authorities on a range of economic and urban
planning issues.

Promising Responses
and Lessons Learned

As we look at how cities can productively
accommodate vendors and support them to
operate legitimately in urban sites, we need to
keep in mind that the street vending popula-
tion is a persistent proportion of the working
population in most cities. As Lund, Nicholson,
and Skinner (2000) have noted:
The informal economy is here to stay. It
is not something temporary. It is not a pause
on a road leading to jobs for everyone in the

formal economy [In this context,] street
traders are permanent players in the economy
who make an important contribution to it, par-
ticularly to certain sections of it. They are
entrepreneurs with important trading skills who
are able to analyze key problems in their envi-
ronment in economic terms. Their economic
activities also create employment for others
(Lund, Nicholson, and Skinner 2000, pp. 9, 39).
Recognizing this reality is an important
step that needs to be taken in reformulating
policy. In the following sections we present
examples that shed additional light on other
key elements in achieving win-win situations
for women vendors and cities around the world.

Access to Space and Location
An ambitious goal of the mayor of Lima,
Peru (who was elected in 1996 without the sup-
port of vendors) was to revitalize the old city
and relocate the vendors working there. Un-
like earlier interventions, this time the city ac-
knowledged the vendors as a viable commer-
cial class, integral to the larger urban market-
ing and distribution system. Operating from the
principle that Lima belongs to everyone (in-
cluding informal producers, sellers, and cus-
tomers), the mayor worked closely with the
head of the 8,000-member vendor association
in planning the relocation. Collaboration in-
cluded identifying new vendor sites and pro-
viding access to credit and other services. In
fact, vendors self-financed the construction of
a new, larger marketplace where they could
operate legitimately. Unfortunately, because
the construction cost was high, "poorer" ven-
dors were excluded.
This experience has led vendors and of-
ficials in other urban districts of Lima to realize
that self-financing does not always work. Since
most vendors who serve a poorer market (usu-
ally women) lack the resources to cover new
market construction, different infrastructure
solutions must be developed to support them.
The SEWA example, below, illustrates how the
concerns of women vendors can be taken into

Case Study: The Self Employed Women's
Association (SEWA) and the Vendors of
Ahmedabad, India
In Ahmedabad, an estimated 45,000
people (one-third to one-half of whom are

Why Organize as Women?
Women tend to trade and vend in the
most vulnerable circumstances
because of discrimination against
women in most economies. Targeted
support and policies can redress some
of the effects of this discrimination.
Leadership positions both in unions of
formal economy workers and street
trader organizations are generally
male dominated.
Women need space and opportunities
to develop their leadership skills and
assertiveness and to establish an action
agenda that focuses on their needs.

women) work as hawkers or petty traders sell-
ing vegetables, fruits, and other foods;
housewares; tools; clothes; and a wide variety
of self-made goods. In the 15 main hawker
markets across the city, most vendors either
squat on the ground or sell from small
handcarts. The Manek Chowk market houses
the greatest number of vendors, providing space
to about 400. As befits the prime marketing area
for consumer goods within the city, the market
area of Manek Chowk is crowded and con-
gested, yet it also serves as a major thorough-
fare for traffic across the city and is used as a
parking place by shop owners and pedestrians.

For some time, Manek Chowk had been
at the center of a struggle for vendor rights
and space led by SEWA, a trade union for
working women.6 Vendors account for about
30,000 (or approximately one-third) of SEWA's
membership; they make up the wing of SEWA
that is growing most significantly. The fight over
Manek Chowk sprang out of municipal authori-
ties' repeated efforts to evict the vendors in
order to create parking zones. The municipal-
ity also charged that vendors were obstruct-
ing transportation arteries and ordered them
to be "cleared off." In the eyes of the law, the
vendors were encroaching on government
land, which is against the law.
For SEWA, this municipal policy was an
infringement of women's right to work, as vend-
ing in Manek Chowk constituted many women's
only means of earning a livelihood. Most of those
affected were well entrenched, occupying trad-
ing spots that had been in their families for gen-
erations (passed down from mother to daugh-
ter since a time when neither cars nor shops
existed). Without the right to vend there, these
women and their families would be destitute.
In keeping with its tradition of working
within the established political and legal infra-
structure, SEWA went to the supreme court to
seek injunctions against the city to stop the
vendor evictions. The court ordered SEWA, the
Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC),
and the police to sit down together and find a

solution. This proved less daunting than antici-
pated. With fewer than 400 vendors in Manek
Chowk and the neighboring area, mutual ac-
commodation was possible. The solution of
choice was to relocate vegetable vendors to a
terrace at the top of the Manek Chowk market
in order to lessen congestion on the streets,
which was the original concern of the city.7
For SEWA, the Manek Chowk Agreement
(Appendix 1) represents a satisfactory out-
come because it recognizes those factors that
ensure the rights of male and female vendors
to ply their trade, namely, securing more li-
censes for members and securing a place to
vend without police harassment.
The actions agreed upon by the stake-
holders also ensured that the vendors, both
SEWA members and others, were relocated
where their clients are, not at a site away from
their customer base, as often occurs. The
emphasis on a license with a photograph is
central to SEWA's vendor policies because it
is seen as an asset that entitles vendors to le-
gal protection against harassment and confis-
cation of goods. Other important provisions of
the agreement, such as protection from the el-
ements (i.e., a roof) and access to utilities, will
enable vendors to work in a healthier, cleaner,
and less polluted environment.

Supportive Regulations and
Licensing Policies
For many years, elimination of street
vending has been associated with being a
"modern" city. In many cities around the world,
town-planning acts had their origins in the co-
lonial period when strict zoning regulations
were in force that, in effect, restricted the le-
gitimate presence and the growth of these
microenterprises. Gradually, and for a variety
of often contradictory reasons, this has begun
to change. For example, in the early 1990s, 29
regulatory acts were overturned in Harare, Zim-
babwe, because they restricted entry and
stifled business development at a time when
economic reforms were beginning to take their
toll on employment options. Many Zimbabwean
women were pushed into street vending to
access cash income to support their house-
holds during this period. Responding to this
reality, new sites, including part of the center
city, were made available to vendors. In
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city, a
major government parking lot was turned into

a Sunday market, and local authorities relaxed
enforcement of regulations regarding opera-
tion of enterprises from individual residences
(Barnes and Keogh 1999).

Protection from Harassment
Change is possible, but it depends on
transparency and accountability. One ap-
proach is for policymakers and other authori-
ties to involve vendors themselves in regulat-
ing markets. The following example from Bo-
livia gives testimony to vendors' efforts to for-
malize their rights and position within the local
economy and government.

Case Study: Street Vendors'
Association of Santa Cruz
Organizing vendors began in Santa Cruz,
Bolivia, in 1963. By 1965, a federation of street
vendors had been established. However, it was
not until 1973 that the federation became le-
gally registered. Today the federation includes
63 organizations.
Until 1980 vendors in Santa Cruz faced
few problems. Their relocation to a new mar-
ket in 1966 was a relatively orderly process. A
census was undertaken of all the vendors, and
each vendor retained her license in the new
site. The move itself went smoothly, with the
military providing assistance. A change in gov-
ernment in Bolivia in 1980, however, brought
with it confrontation and violence. Some of the
new leaders of the Street Vendors' Associa-
tion of Santa Cruz were killed, and others were
jailed and tortured. Upon their release from
prison, the association's leadership regrouped
and entered into a collaborative relationship
with a large national labor union that promised
to facilitate provision of licenses to the ven-
dors. When the union was unable to deliver on
its promise, the vendors found themselves con-
ducting their businesses illegally, with even
less security than before.
Currently the Street Vendors' Association
of Santa Cruz represents street vendors who
have access to approximately one meter of street
space each. They pay one peso (US$0.21) a
day to sell on the streets. A few have two-year
licenses for which they paid US$20, but the
majority are still unlicensed. Irrespective of their
licensing status, all vendors are continually
subject to police harassment, with traffic ob-
struction the most common accusation.

Members have indicated a willingness to
pay license fees in exchange for the city grant-
ing them the positive benefits they seek, but
the city has not responded. In light of this ap-
parent impasse, the association is assuming
the role of intermediary between its members
and the city, negotiating for better services. Ac-
cording to Lorida de Rendon, president of the
Santa Cruz Street Vendors' Association, this
advocacy role with the municipality is laid out
in the association's well-defined vendor rights,
which include:
to have a set of laws at local and national
levels that guarantee the fundamental
rights of street vendors;
to have a social security system that
would guarantee various forms of insur-
ance to street vendors;
to have an education system that is ad-
equate for street vendors' needs;
to have an adequate legal aid service to
protect this sector, and to improve legal

literacy so that street vendors are informed
of their rights and how to defend them;
to strengthen the grassroots organiza-
tions that protect this sector; and
to get solidarity support from other
grassroots organizations around the

Access to Financial Services
Where financial services have reached
the community of vendors and hawkers across
the globe, there has been an enviable record
of success. Today there is hardly a country
where some nongovernmental organization
(NGO) has not attempted to introduce micro-
finance services, mostly working capital loans,
to groups of street vendors. Indeed, street ven-
dors make attractive clients, as sales from their
microenterprises are seen as a primary source
of loan repayment. The following organizations,
which cater exclusively or predominantly to the
needs of women, illustrate what is possible:
Out of more than 30,000 borrowers in
1997, close to 90 percent of Acci6n
Communitaria del Peru's clients in Lima
were traders selling from their homes, in
the marketplace, or on the street.
SEWA Bank, with 55,000 savers and
nearly 10,000 borrowers, provides credit
and savings and insurance to its Ahmed-
abad members.

As delivered in most countries, micro-
finance is well suited to the resource capacity
as well as working capital requirements of ven-
dors. Entry requirements are low and first loans
are usually small, often between US$50 and
$150. Lacking traditional collateral, vendors
usually guarantee their loans through a peer
lending structure. Terms are short, with weekly,
biweekly, or monthly repayment schedules of
small amounts, in keeping with the cash flow
cycle of the poor. Successful savings services
provide a safe place for deposits and rarely
require minimums that are beyond the finan-
cial capabilities of street vendors.8
The global success of microfinance pro-
grams demonstrates that economically active,
low-income women like street vendors are
credit worthy. Impact studies have also shown
that vendors can effectively use credit and sav-
ings services to improve their lives. Financial

services make a difference, by enabling the
poor to build assets, diversify their income
sources, and practice good money manage-
ment. For those who must operate at the mar-
gin, financial services offer choice: micro-
finance provides women street vendors with
options regarding allocating resources for on-
going expenses, such as the purchase of raw
materials or the payment of children's school
fees, as well as unanticipated expenses like
treatment for illness. Even when household in-
comes do not grow, they may at least stabi-
lize, and the use of a loan to invest in house-
hold and business assets protects vendors
against multiple crises that can arise.
While microfinance opportunities are
reaching an ever-increasing number of poor
women, insurance coverage is not. Insurance
services, an emerging area of financial ser-
vices, are designed to respond to risk. Illness
or death of a family member is frequent in low-
income communities and can bring a woman's
microenterprise to a screeching halt. In fact,
such losses can rapidly force even better-off
street vendors into poverty. Providing insur-
ance and savings services can help mitigate
risk and greatly reduce the vulnerability of
street vendors.

Gaining a Voice and Representation
Given the economic and regulatory prob-
lems faced by vendors and the additional pres-
sures faced by women vendors, the need for
membership or advocacy organizations to rep-

A Loan Can Make a Difference
When Luisa started a small business in
Honduras selling household goods, she
had no assets or capital. She financed
her purchases by borrowing from loan
sharks whose exorbitant daily interest
rates ate up all of her profits and kept
her on the margin of survival despite her
dawn-to-dusk efforts. Then Luisa joined
a community bank started by the
Organizacion de Desararollo
Empresarial Femenino [Organization for
Women's Economic Development]. As a
community bank member, Luisa received
a loan of US$68, business training, and
support from other women. With this
help, she opened a fish stand in a busy
marketplace. Netting more and more
sales, Luisa now employs three people
(including her husband) and has
expanded her product line to include
vegetables, fruit, and natural medicines.

resent vendor interests and press for change
is a serious one. Effective organizations can
take the form of cooperatives, trade unions, or
NGOs. Experience suggests that no one model
works for all. Trade unions have worked in
South Africa and India. Membership organi-
zations have been effective in Bolivia and New
York City. Structure alone cannot ensure suc-
cess, however. Strong leadership is vital if an
organization is to have a voice and be effec-
tive. To this end, the Self Employed Women's
Union (SEWU),9 is making important inroads
locally, nationally, and internationally-chal-
lenging us to think about the standards for ef-
fective organizational response.

Case Study: Self Employed Women's
Union (SEWU) and Vending in Durban,
South Africa
SEWU, established in 1994 with its head
office in Durban, South Africa, is a trade union
for working women who do not have wage-
earning employment but instead earn income
working for themselves with no more than
three employees;
working as an employee but without per-
manent status;

undertaking work not covered by another
trade union; or
doing casual work.
Its central objective is to improve the eco-
nomic condition of working women, particu-
larly the large and growing numbers who to-
day eke out a living in the wide array of activi-
ties in the informal sector.
A central and successful part of SEWU's
agenda has been its negotiations with Durban's
city council on behalf of its members, many of
whom are hawkers and vendors. SEWU has
been instrumental in bringing the numerous and
diverse interests of vendors located throughout
the city to the bargaining table with the Durban
municipality. By obtaining consensus on ven-
dor rights to trade freely, SEWU has helped
traders gain access to secure trading spaces

Organizational Features that Support
Women Traders
Member driven/democratic
Women-led, with dedicated capacity-
building activities
Women at center of all negotiation
Women-focused strategies for
support, eliminating barriers
Self-conscious, pro-women approach
to globalization

and improved work conditions (including the
provision of water and sanitation facilities).
To understand SEWU's success in this ur-
ban political arena, certain features of this ongo-
ing dialogue are worth considering. Under apart-
heid, black South Africans were barred from cit-
ies unless they had formal employment, and thus
effectively were prohibited from street vending.
With economic liberalization in the mid-1980s,
urban street vending mushroomed. In 1991, the
Businesses Act replaced the Licensing Act,
which had prohibited most black people from trad-
ing on city streets. Vendors could now trade wher-
ever they wished, and large numbers of unem-
ployed women and men began migrating to the
cities to pursue a living through street trading.
Unlike the excessive controls of the past,
under the Businesses Act vendors and hawk-
ers faced less regulation; however, the new
street trade bylaws designated some areas as
limited trading areas and required permits and
the payment of rental fees. But fee levels varied
from city to city, and in some instances were ne-
gotiated directly with street traders themselves.
In 1994, SEWU set out to identify the key
municipal negotiating partners and began a
dialogue with the Informal Business Unit of the
Durban city council, an entity established to
deal with small business development. A num-
ber of issues affecting hawkers and vendors
were raised, including:
access to market facilities;
support for food safety and sanitation;

provision of daycare centers for children;
access to permits; and
establishment of mechanisms for ongo-
ing hawker input.
SEWU members representing different
localities were present for the negotiations and
were able to block the eviction of vendors from
certain sites. They participated in the planning
of a new market for street traders selling tradi-
tional medicines and in the upgrading of ex-
isting market facilities. By attaining a memo-
randum of understanding with the municipal-
ity, SEWU also secured a written guarantee
ensuring its participation in the review of new
street trading laws.
Local politicians and municipal officials
from the various governmental departments,
however, have consistently undermined the ne-
gotiation process by passing responsibility
from one group to another. In 1996 the city
council formed an Informal Trade Task Group,
consisting of formal and informal trade repre-
sentatives and city council officials, including
the city police. SEWU was encouraged to sub-
mit proposed amendments to the street trad-
ing bylaws through this task group, which it
did, forwarding amendments to decriminalize
street vending and all related activities. To re-
place an approach that criminalized street
vendors who sleep on the streets for lack of
affordable overnight accommodation and to
improve vendor conditions, SEWU challenged
the city council's right to confiscate street trad-
ers' goods and to impose bylaws that would
ban late-night trading in the beachfront area
during holiday periods (when tourists and visi-
tors abound). SEWU also recommended that
the city council:
provide affordable overnight accommoda-
tion to street vendors who live too far out-
side Durban to go home every night; and
retain primary responsibility for cleaning
the streets (and not transfer this respon-
sibility entirely to the street vendors trad-
ing there).
Following the next local elections, however,
a new city council dissolved the standing Infor-
mal Trade Task Group and created a new one
that consisted only of councilors from several
parts of the city. This new group ignored SEWU's
proposed bylaw amendments and came up with

its own bizarre proposal to scrap the Businesses
Act in the Durban metropolitan area. SEWU stub-
bornly persisted and forced the municipal body
to address the legal and constitutional rights of
local hawkers and vendors.
Despite the roadblocks, delays, and
changing city players, SEWU was able to sus-
tain negotiations with all of the numerous de-
partments of the city council that would listen
and has successfully defended the legal rights
of hawkers and vendors to ply their trade
(Xaba-Shezi and Sithole 1995). Over time,
SEWU's leadership position has become well
recognized, and the organization is now taken
seriously as a negotiating partner.

The Road to Recognition:
Reform and Organizing

The sidewalk changed a little everyday:
the sidewalk and the edge of the roadbed are
lined with stalls offering bootleg tapes, bogus
Teva sandals, Hindu-print camisoles, and fly-
weight silver jewelry, along with hair-braiders
and the banana-pancake makers. One teen-
ager was peddling electronic pagers, next day
he was gone and a chatty woman was selling
burlap handbags (Orlean 2000).

The problems of vendors have changed
little over time, yet their role in the economy is
evolving, with new products and expanding
market opportunities, and they are gaining rec-
ognition as being important to urban develop-
ment. Even economists must admit that the in-
formal sector is a large and vital component
of the global economy that will not disappear
anytime soon. Still, municipal and other offi-
cials face substantial challenges in reconcil-
ing "the city beautiful" with the desire for an
urban economy that can provide work and a de-
cent income to an increasing number of urban
poor. In order to promote more stable urban en-
vironments and solve the nagging problems di-
viding vendors, officials, and other residents,
a number of strategies are being pursued.
Under the stewardship of SEWA, the five-
year-old Bellagio International Declaration of
Street Vendors (see box, page 18) represents
an international campaign to improve the situa-
tion of street vendors around the world. However,
the declaration is only the tip of the iceberg; there
are many efforts ongoing at the community, mu-
nicipal, and national levels to gain recognition

for this sector. In cities around the world, ven-
dors are gaining a voice and finding a way to
participate in urban planning and policymaking
decisions. Appropriately, many of those speak-
ing out on behalf of vendors are women, as the
vendor community worldwide is predominantly
female. A central theme is the emergence of new
partnerships and dialogue to bring all the stake-
holders toward mutual agreement on the contin-
ued and constructive role of street vendors in
the urban economy. We summarize some of the
inroads that have been made and explore the
potential for future action.

At the Local Level: Working with and
for the Community of Vendors
The Pushcart War, a children's story by
Jean Merrill in which New York City's street

vendors successfully wage their war with the
large moving vans that often block the city
streets, shows how a spatially dispersed group
of fictitious New York vendors came together
with an aggressive strategy that permitted
them to achieve the right to conduct their busi-
nesses safely and without harassment. While
the real world does not always follow the best
practices of fiction, not all the differences be-
tween street vendors and municipal authorities,
or between street vendors and private interests,
end in acrimony. Deals are struck that serve the
interests of all, including the retail customer.
Multiple strategies for gaining recognition
of vendor priorities are in evidence; some de-
pend more on media, some on litigation, some
on protest, and others on relentless negotia-
tion. Examples of successful vendor/munici-

The Bellagio International Declaration of Street Vendors
Having regard to the fact:
that in the fast growing urban sector there is a proliferation of poor hawkers and
vendors, including those who are children;
that because of poverty, unemployment and forced migration and immigration,
despite the useful social and economic service they render to society, they are looked
upon as a hindrance to the planned development of cities both by the elite urbanites
and the town planners alike;
that hawkers and vendors are subjected to constant mental and physical torture by
the local officials and are harassed in many other ways which at times leads to riotous
situations, loss of property rights, loss of livelihood, or monetary loss;
that there is hardly any public policy consistent with the needs of street vendors
throughout the world.
We urge upon Governments to form a National Policy for hawkers and vendors by making
them a part of the broader structural policies aimed at improving their standards of living,
by having regard to the following:
Give vendors legal status by issuing licenses, enacting laws and providing
appropriate hawking zones in urban plans.
Provide legal access to the use of appropriate and available space in urban areas.
Protect and expand vendors' existing livelihood.
Make street vendors a special component of the plans for urban development by
treating them as an integral part of the urban distribution system.
Issue guidelines for supportive services at local levels.
Enforce regulations and promote self-governance.
Set up appropriate, participatory, non-formal mechanisms with representation by
street vendors and hawkers, NGOs, local authorities, the police and others.
Provide street vendors with meaningful access to credit and financial services.
Provide street vendors with relief measures in situations of disasters and natural
Take measures for promoting a better future for child vendors and persons with
disabilities among them.
Signed by vendors, hawkers, union leaders, lawyers, bankers, architects, planners, and academics from 11 cities
across five continents in Bellagio, Italy, 21-24 November 1995.

pal collaborations have been mentioned, but
another important one comes from Jamaica,
where itinerant food vendors formed an asso-
ciation to lobby for a permanent and secure
site from which they could pursue their trade.
By reaching out to the Negril Chamber of Com-
merce, the office responsible for improving the
quality of Jamaica's tourism, the association
of food vendors forged a collaboration that at-
tracted public and private financing to con-
struct such a space. With all parties working
together, the Negril Vendors' Plaza opened in
1994, and 56 vendors moved from the streets
to the new facility.
Jointly owned and operated by the ven-
dors' association and the Negril Chamber of
Commerce (through a nonprofit corporation),
the plaza has yielded immediate benefits. Not
only has it alleviated the area's notoriously
heavy traffic congestion, it has also enabled
vendors to operate and even expand their
businesses in a hygienic and secure environ-
ment. The proven entrepreneurial and orga-
nizing talents of the association's leadership
will support the vendors in continuing to have
a voice in decisions regarding their welfare and
the quality of their operations. In fact, the
association's founder has since been invited
to serve on the Negril Chamber of Commerce,
becoming the first street vendor in Jamaica to
be so honored.

Organizing: From Local to
National Organizations
Throughout this issue, reference has
been made to the emergence of community
and citywide organizations that represent street
vendors, enabling them to speak with one
voice in their negotiations with officials and
residents in their immediate neighborhoods
and throughout the city. In most instances a
central part of their agenda has been working
to secure licenses for all vendors, thus insur-
ing their legal status. In a few cases, vendors
have even gained the power to convene moni-
toring commissions to oversee vendor and
police compliance with city bylaws on vend-
ing (effectively appointing them as civil pros-
ecutors to punish those who break the law).
Effective street vendor organizations that
have secured rights and benefits for their mem-
bers often operate from the premise that their
members are workers whose activities need
collective recognition and protection. Negotia-

tions with authorities, by extension, are a form
of collective bargaining appropriate to street
vendors and their conditions of work. Such ne-
gotiations can be on a bilateral basis, with in-
dividual street vendor organizations, or on a
multilateral basis, with joint forums of street
vendor organizations. In the latter case, orga-
nizations have come to recognize they can
maximize their effectiveness by forming alli-
ances with each other and cooperating on
common problems and demands.
Another function of street vendor organi-
zations is to change negative public percep-
tions of street vendors through effective me-
dia strategies and publicity campaigns.
Through such strategies, the perceived illegal-
ity of street vending can be effectively chal-
lenged in the public eye, and support for street
vendors can be mobilized. For example, in
November 1996 an alliance of street vendors'
unions in Calcutta amassed widespread pub-
lic support for street vendors evicted in the
municipality's infamous Operation Sunshine, by
waging a systematic media campaign against
the plan. This public support continued in 1997
and succeeded in blocking the passage of the
"Black Bill" that had sought to criminalize street
vending and impose a minimum three-month
jail sentence with no option for bail.
At the national level, an important function
of street vendor organizations is to proactively
litigate in order to establish important precedents
that can protect street vendors' legal rights. In
some European countries there is a long history
of such activism; for example, the Associazone
Nazionale Venditore Ambulantore (ANVA) in Italy
was started in 1947 and today has about 80,000
members and 180 branches.
There are fewer such national-level insti-
tutions in the developing world. One example

Selected Elements of Good
Local Authority/Trader Relations
Location of street trading in an
appropriate municipal department
Approachable officials
Capacity building for traders/trader
organizations and officials
Accessible, gender-sensitive materials
Good and regular channels of
Source: Lund, Nicholson, and Skinner 2000, p. 77.

Disseminating examples of positive
directions, or "best practices" from
across India, NASVI has publicized:
Litigation that led to municipal action:
The Karnataka High Court's interim
order led the Bangalore Municipal
Corporation to formulate a city
policy for vendors.
The New Delhi Municipal
Corporation established committees
to allocate space for vending
following the Supreme Court's ruling
that hawking is a fundamental right.
Municipal planning to allocate vendor
The Lucknow Development
Authority has provided vendors with
space in new shopping complexes
and is helping vendors buy stalls to
sell their goods.
Mumbai has originated the concept
of "earmarking" space for vendors
(e.g., hawkers' plazas), exemplified
by Fashion Street's provision of
specialized space-in the heart of
the city's commercial area-for
garment sellers.

is the National Alliance of Street Vendors of
India (NASVI). Established in 1998, its mem-
bership includes vendors from 27 cities and
towns across the country. As a result of a se-
ries of national and regional meetings, and the
dissemination of its publication Footpath Ki
Aawaz, NASVI has been able to raise aware-
ness and lobby for change across India.
National organizing can also stimulate the
creation of a broader agenda that will secure
vendors' rights as working people, pressing
for such elements as:
educating vendors about their rights and
building their capacity to participate in
collective bargaining;
initiating legal and functional literacy pro-
grams leading to the collective self-em-
powerment of vendors;
developing training and workshops to
reduce fear of the police, and sensitizing
the police and other enforcement agents;
pressing for social security programs that
accrue to vendors in accordance with

their economic and civic roles (indepen-
dent of their affiliation with a particular po-
litical party or office seeker);
establishing collective bargaining and
other participatory structures to ensure
street vendor involvement in the formu-
lation of appropriate policies and regula-
tions governing street vending;
attracting investment and financial support
to build markets with appropriate struc-
tures to be managed with the participation
of vendors or their associations; and
developing a body of litigated precedents
guaranteeing the constitutional and legal
rights of street vendors.
In addition, those organizations that grow
and broaden their base generally are the ones
that can connect micro and macro issues to
affect policy from a focused advocacy perspec-
tive. To help others reach this stage, resources
are required to build vendors' capacity to make
these links and advance them.

New Rules for Institutional Players
At the municipal level, proposals that can
benefit both vendors and their customers have
been put forward, including proposals to
streamline urban management responsibilities
for street vendors' activities and restructure the
regulatory environment. Not all change is ben-
eficial, however, at least in the short term.
Until 1995, hawkers in Ghana were sub-
ject to the Street Markets Laws of 1948, passed
when the country was still a colony of Great
Britain, cities were smaller, and vendors were
fewer in number. In 1993, Metropolitan or Dis-
trict Authorities Bylaws were enacted as a
means of regulating street vending activity
throughout the country. Two years later, with
the capital city growing rapidly, the Accra Met-
ropolitan Assembly established Hawkers' Per-
mit Bylaws. This new package of laws and
regulations contained many contradictions.
The municipality of Accra confronted a situa-
tion where a shortage of available market
space was escalating competition between
market and street vendors. Not only was reso-
lution of these problems difficult but to arrive
at any agreement required initiating a dialogue
among local authorities, market vendors, and
street vendors to establish a workable policy

To reach consensus so that all players
may benefit, some basic questions need to be
asked about proposed regulations and laws:
Are they appropriate?
Do they reflect the practical reality in
which market vendors, street vendors,
and hawkers ply their trade (particularly
in areas where the traffic is heavy and
the available street market space is far
outweighed by demand)?
Does the municipality have the capacity
to implement and enforce the proposed
laws effectively and efficiently?
Most lawmakers and regulators, no
longer debating whether to regulate or deregu-
late street trade, are now facing the challenge
of establishing appropriate and workable regu-
lations for street vending. In doing so, they fre-
quently have to resolve the following questions
and issues:
Whether to use a licensing system to
regulate trade or a permit system to regu-
late space;
How to enact spatial bylaws or regula-
tions that contain equitable criteria for
specifying who will receive priority in ac-
cess to vending space (e.g., weighing
common-law rights of occupation against
those of new entrants, or favoring small-
scale traders over syndicates or large
business interests);
How to establish provisions that:
do not criminalize those in breach of
regulations or bylaws;
specify neutral enforcement agents (to
avoid protecting certain interest
groups at the expense of others);

contain user-friendly appeal proce-
dures (to be invoked in cases of per-
ceived injustice in enforcement);

How to create an integrated taxation sys-
tem (incorporating license fees, pay-
ments for services, and fees to rent
space) in an overall revenue system that
equates vendors' payment of these fees
with the payment of taxes, which, in turn,
accords vendors certain social benefits.

From Local to Global Partnerships to
Regularize Street Vending
As municipalities seek to change laws that
affect how street vendors ply their trade, it is
clear that vendors must have a seat at the table.
As has been noted, the courts can be used to
establish a legal framework within which street
vendors can operate and to arbitrate differences
among the various parties involved, including
those at the local government level. However, if
the parties could agree to establish dialogue,
partnerships, or collective bargaining forums to
regulate street vending, litigation and court ac-
tion could be reserved as last resorts.
A new term for this kind of regulation is
"voice regulation," implying the participation of
all interest groups in determining the regulation
system and appropriate regulations. The mu-
nicipality of Accra, Ghana, has adopted this ap-
proach by initiating policy dialogues with mar-
ket women's associations and street vendors.
The municipality of Durban, South Africa, has
done this through formulating appropriate policy
for small business development that includes
street trading. Unfortunately, there are other
examples of municipalities that have started
such processes but have not been able to sus-
tain them. Establishing voice regulation appears
to be the biggest challenge municipalities face
in their dealings with street vendors and their
representative organizations today.
We have seen that local-level organiza-
tional efforts need to be consolidated at the
national level to cement vendors' hard-earned
gains as rights in national laws and policy.
Thus, national street vendor networks were
formed in Italy and India. However, national-
level organizational efforts also need to be
consolidated at an international level to pro-
tect these rights over time (given the nature of
globalization and its effects on economically
marginalized groups such as street vendors).

Street traders want laws that will assist
them in running their businesses and
recognize their right to trade in streets
and provide sufficient space for them
to do this;
provide supportive services (credit,
training, and so forth) similar to those
offered by other businesses;
establish legal rights to infrastructure;
acknowledge their contribution to the

The 1995 meeting in Bellagio conceived
an international alliance of street vendors,
which is now being developed under the name
StreetNet. The aim of StreetNet is to promote
the exchange of information and ideas on criti-
cal issues facing street vendors and practical
organizing and advocacy strategies. Its four
main objectives are to:
expand and strengthen street vendor net-
works at the international, regional, and
national levels;
build an information base on the numbers
and situations of street vendors in differ-
ent parts of the world;
document and disseminate information
on effective organizing strategies for pro-
moting and protecting the rights of street
vendors; and
build a solid institutional base from which
to advance StreetNet's work.
Through StreetNet, members will gain an
understanding of the common problems faced
by street vendors, develop new ideas for
strengthening their organizing and advocacy
efforts, and join an international campaign to
promote policies and actions that can contrib-
ute to improving the lives of millions of women
working as street vendors.
If StreetNet is successful in coordinating
the efforts of street vendor organizations
around the world to promote and recognize
o vendors' legal rights, the result will be a more
Just environment for millions of women earn-
ing their living as street vendors in cities
throughout the world.

1 This issue of SEEDS does not address the cir-
cumstances facing rural vendors and cross-
border vendors.
2 From 1975 to 2000, the level of urbanization in
less-developed countries is expected to in-
crease from 26.7 percent to 40.7 percent and
to 57 percent by 2025; by 2025 urban growth
will contribute to 96 percent of total growth
among less-developed countries (United Na-
tions 1995).
3 Among the poor as much as 50 percent of to-
tal income is spent on food. A Filipino
washerwoman quoted in interviews acknowl-
edged the cost- and time-effectiveness of pre-
pared food bought from street vendors.
4 The distinction is made here between paid
nonfamily employees and unpaid family mem-
5 Redressing this imbalance calls for both in-
creasing the number of permits issued and
ensuring that they conform to the need for and
supply of vending space.
6 SEEDS no. 18 provides more information on
7 Construction of the new vending space nec-
essary for the full implementation of the agree-
ment remains stalled while the municipal au-
thorities appeal the judgment in court. How-
ever, the agreement in itself is a major victory,
marking the first step in a collaboration between
the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and the
vendors and in the recognition of the produc-
tive role of street vendors in the city's economy.
8 SEEDS nos. 3, 6, 11, and 15 provide more in-
formation on savings and microfinance serv-
9 SEEDS no. 18 provides more information on

Barnes, Carolyn and Erica Keogh. 1999. "An as-
sessment of the impact of Zambuko's
microenterprise program in Zimbabwe: Base-
line findings." AIMS paper. Washington DC:
Management Systems International.
Berman, Paul. 1998. "Labyrinth of solitude." New
York Times Magazine, August 2, pp. 50-73.
Bhatt, Mihir. 1998. Personal memorandum.
Charmes, Jacques. 1999. Unpublished table.
Dunn, Elizabeth. 1997. "Diversification in the house-
hold economic portfolio." AIMS paper. Wash-
ington DC: Management Systems Interna-
Gombay, Christine. 1994. "Marketplace politics in Kam-
pala and Quito." The Urban Edge 11(2):6-7.
Hernandez, Patricia, Alfredo Zetina, Medardo Tapia,
Claudia Ortiz, and Irma Coria Soto. 1996.
"Childcare needs of female street vendors in
Mexico City." Health Policy and Planning
Hicks, Jonathan. 1993. "Street vendors wary of
council efforts to create more licenses." New
York Times, February 7.
Jhabvala, Renana. 2000. Personal communication.
Lan Cao. 1998. Monkey Bridge. New York: Penguin.
Lund, Francine, J. Nicholson, and Caroline Skin-
ner. 2000. Street Trading. Durban, South Af-
rica: University of Natal.
Orlean, Susan. 2000. "The place to disappear." The
New Yorker, January 17, pp. 37-41.
Tinker, Irene. 1997. Street Foods: Urban Food and
Employment in Developing Countries. New
York: Oxford University Press.
United Nations. 1995. Human Development Report.
Xaba-Shezi, Busi and Duduzile Sithole. 1995. "Le-
gal situation of street vendors in Durban,
South Africa." Paper presented at the Bellagio
meeting of street vendors convened by

For more information on StreetNet, please con-
tact StreetNet at P.O. Box 61139, Bishopsgate,
Durban 4008, South Africa; telephone: 27-31-
307-4038; e-mail: stnet@iafrica.com.

Appendix 1 Manek Chowk Agreement
1. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) will accommodate 218 female vegetable
vendors who are members of SEWA on the terrace of the existing vegetable market. Any
extra space would be made available to other vegetable vendors who have been vending
vegetables on the pavement in the Manek Chowk areas for more than five years. Prefer-
ence would be given to 95 male vendors who are associate members of SEWA.
2. The AMC will provide to each vegetable vendor a terrace space measuring 4' x 4'. Should
it not be possible to accommodate the 313 vegetable vendors in this way, then and only
then will each vegetable vendor be allocated a reduced space of 4' x 3.5'.
3. The AMC will provide a roof on the terrace, adequate to protect the vegetable vendors
from sun and rain and the work of putting up such roof shall the carried out by the AMC as
soon as possible.
4. The AMC will provide a broad staircase for the vegetable vendors and their customers
and shall maintain this staircase in good condition. At some point of time in future the
AMC might be able to provide a lift.
5. The AMC shall also provide water and lighting facilities on the terrace.
6. The authorities of the AMC will issue licenses to the 218 female vegetable vendors and to
the other vegetable vendors resettled on the terrace. The licenses issued to the veg-
etable vendors shall be on usual terms.
7. The male vegetable vendors shall be provided with space separate from the rows of
female vegetable vendors and each of these vegetable vendors shall carry identity card
with her/his photograph.
8. No vegetable vendor nor the AMC will be permitted to put up a construction-permanent
or temporary-on the terrace. The objective is that the terrace should be reserved only for
vegetable vendors selling vegetables from toplas (bamboo baskets).
9. The entire market on the terrace shall be cleared by the licensed vegetable vendors
together with their baskets and vegetables at the end of the day (i.e., by 9 p.m.).
10. Until such time as the assigned vegetable vendors are relocated to the terrace all existing
interim orders restraining the AMC from evicting them and from recovering any penalties
imposed on them and the Commissioner of Police from proceeding with the prosecutions
for alleged violations of the Bombay Police Act, will continue to remain operative.
11. Should any vendors in future be allowed to vend on any open space in the Manek Chowk
and Danapith areas where the 218 female and 95 male vegetable vendors were vending
vegetables prior to relocation, then the vegetable vendors will have a prior claim to vend
vegetables on such open space.
12. The management of the day-to-day affairs of the vegetable market on the terrace shall be
carried on by a committee called the Topla Bazaar Committee, consisting of an equal
number of representatives from the AMC and the vegetable vendors. The constitution of
the committee having such equal representation as also the method of appointment of
representative of the vegetable vendors shall be such as may be determined by the AMC
in consultation with SEWA.
Source: Bhatt 1998.

Cover Photo: International Women's Tribune Center
Typography: Susan Rowe
Printing: Graphic Impressions

Other Editions of SEEDS Currently Available
No. 2 Hanover Street: An Experiment to Train Women in Welding
and Carpentry-Jamaica (English, Spanish)
No. 3 Market Women's Cooperatives: Giving Women Credit-
Nicaragua (Spanish, French)
No. 4 Women and Handicrafts: Myth and Reality-International
(English, Spanish, French)
No. 5 The Markala Cooperative: A New Approach to Traditional
Economic Roles-Mali (French)
No. 6 The Working Women's Forum: Organizing for Credit and
Change-India (French)
No. 7 Developing Non-Craft Employment for Women in
Bangladesh (English, French, Spanish)
No. 8 Community Management of Waste Recycling:
The SIRDO-Mexico (English, Spanish)
No. 9 The Women's Construction Collective: Building for the
Future-Jamaica (English, Spanish)
No. 10 Forest Conservation in Nepal: Encouraging Women's
Participation (English, Spanish, French, Nepali)
No. 11 Port Sudan Small Scale Enterprise Program-Sudan
No. 12 The Muek-Lek Women's Dairy Project in Thailand (English)
No. 13 Child Care: Meeting the Needs of Working Mothers and
Their Children (English, Spanish)
No. 14 Breaking New Ground: Reaching Out to Women Farmers
in Western Zambia (English, Spanish, French)
No. 15 Self-Employment as a Means to Women's Economic Self-
Sufficiency: Women Venture's Business Development
Program (English)
No. 16 Wasteland Development and the Empowerment of
Women: The SARTHI Experience (French, Hindi)
No. 17 Supporting Women Farmers in the Green Zones of
Mozambique (English)
No. 18 Out of the Shadows: Homebased Workers Organize for
International Recognition (English)
No. 19 Empowering the Next Generation: Girls of the Maqattam
Garbage Settlement (English, Arabic)

If you would like additional copies of this issue or any of the editions of
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