The situation of urban poor women and laborers in the informal sector in Somaliland cannot be understood without looking at the history of turmoil and economic collapse that are said to be the major cause and strengthening of the informal economy. Right after the war, women were forced to take up roles of household decision-making and economic independence which were formerly performed by the men. The drivers of women’s participation in the informal economy are poverty, survival, lack of education amongst others.
On the streets of Hargeisa, the women street vendors are continuously subjected to routine evictions as the city council claims the space to “beautify” the area and modernize the city. In addition to this, the women street vendors are forced to pay and adhere to exorbitant taxes from the state and isolation from systems of financial support from banks and other financial institutions.
Accompanying the report is a documentary that brings to life the different experiences of these women street vendors tainted with sexual and gender-based violence, coercion, exploitation and the pressures of legitimizing their respective small businesses of selling merchandise, fruits and other foodstuffs. Most or all of this stems from no legal protection or official recognition of the rights of these women street vendors.
“Women are the cornerstone of the Somaliland economy and the mainstay of familial and communal survival”
It should be understood that women in the informal sector contribute to the local economy; therefore the Somaliland government through the Hargeisa city authorities must re-shape strategies and provide the women street vendors with clean market spaces for trading their goods and merchandise, all in a sustainable move to co-exist with other city dwellers and systems in the city.
SIHA Network’s work in Somaliland is aimed at 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. We are also looking at promoting women’s access to basic rights, like education, legal access, to mention a few with the overall goal of creating women agents of change for advocacy and support within the informal sector.
SIHA Network continues to call out to stakeholders and partners in the civic space to support women street vendors who are part of Somaliland’s informal sector.