A SHADOW ECONOMY: Women street vendors in Hargeisa and their role in contributing to the Somaliland’s economic development

Hargeisa, the capital city of Somaliland has been growing for the last two (2) decades. During the reconstruction and re-building of the state, Somaliland continued to remain peaceful.

Prior to the fall of Somalia’s dictatorship government in 1991 and the break-out of the civil war, women’s roles were traditionally tied down to caregivers at home. Men assumed the role of breadwinners in their households, thus catering for domestic expenditures and school fees for the children. Conversely, something changed during the civil war when majority of men were killed in the civil war; a considerable number of women became breadwinners and took over what were patriarchal roles before. As an effect of this role change, poverty and deprivation remained, and continue to be the major challenges that women face – forcing them to economic roles as street vendors or domestic workers for sustenance of their households.

Conducting business in Hargeisa is a challenge with financial institutions giving limited access to loans especially start-up capital. Additionally, street-vending shunned as a key part of the economy has given the women street vendors’ limited market space to conduct their business – in addition to restricted provisions within the city plan. In each corner of Hargeisa, there are women street vendors selling food stuffs, milk and second-hand clothes making them an integral part of the informal sector and the country’s overall economic development. Day after day, a great number of women are penetrating the informal sector as vendors of small businesses due to the recurrent droughts and climate change in Somaliland. The unfortunate outcome of these debilitating droughts, especially to the pastoral and agro- pastoral communities is dead livestock. This has conversely increased the number of displaced communities – where most of them are vulnerable, unskilled women.

Street vendors are a major contributor to the local government’s revenue
Women street vendors continue to play an important role in Somaliland’s economic development thus contributing significantly revenue generation.
A recent baseline survey conducted in November 2017 by SIHA Network outlined that the local budget income per year generated from the informal sector generated 40% to 65% of the total annual revenue, through daily tax collection by the local government of Hargeisa. This represents the role of women street vendors and how they contribute to the overall economy.

Fosiya Mohamed Jama lives in Dami village with her eight (8) children. She started vending in 2006, selling perfumes, head cover clothes and uunsi² beside the main road to the city centre in Waaheen Market in Hargeisa. Her daily income is SL 30,000 which is equivalent to $3 US Dollars. Fosia supports her household through paying her children’s school and university fees, food, rent, electricity among other responsibilities – especially with her husband being sick.
Fosiya pays SL 1000 in taxes per day despite the local government considering her work as non-registered business trade. During the tenure of her work, she has suffered violations to her rights, physical assaults and harassment by the police and government law enforcement.

Challenges
Although the women street vendors pay their taxes daily, the local government has not been supportive at all in ensuring a safe environment for these women, like Fosiya – who frequently meet challenges not limited to destruction of property, confiscation of their goods and street gang battery. These women work in a dismal environment with high risk to car accidents and health issues due to limited or no access to basic health and hygiene facilities. Aside from their economic challenges, they are also faced with domestic challenges that come as a result of their long absence from home. These challenges include impending marriage separations and break-ups and maltreatment from their spouses.
There is no legal protection offered to the women street vendors except mention of its classification in the Business Classification Law. And that said though, the Local government provides various licenses but the street vending business is not included thus being seen as an illegal business. The question then, is why the local government continues to collect tax from them.
The women street vendors have no access to finance like loans through formal financial institutions like banks – leaving them the tasking, traditional way to borrow from their relatives and families.

Recommendations
Women in the informal sector have contributed to the local economy; therefore the government must re-shape strategies and provide the women street vendors with clean market spaces for trading their goods and merchandise.
The SIHA Somaliland Project is promoting women empowerment through building capacity in terms of training, in business management, access to financial institutions, advocacy and leadership skills to mention a few. The project also looks at organizing these women in the informal sector into networks and groups to advocate effectively. This project is also looking at promoting women’s access to basic rights, like education, legal access, to mention a few. This project is looking at creating women agents of change for advocacy and support within the informal sector.

SIHA Network calls on all civil society organizations, government and financial institutions to support women street vendors in Hargeisa, Somaliland.

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