SIHA Gender Alert: Street Vendors in Sudan: Surrounding the National Dialogue – No Right to Work.

Surrounding the National Dialogue, street vendors have been denied their right to work in several key locations around Khartoum, including parts of Nile Street and Airport Street. Close to 1,000 women tea sellers, many of whom are their families’ primary breadwinners, are facing weeks without work. These women are working hard to connect, organise and build solidarity in order to deal with the situation.

On 20 October 2016, they took a petition to the Khartoum Locality demanding immediate restoration of street vendors’ constitutional right to work freely and a stop to continuous harassment of women tea sellers. The Khartoum Locality mutamad refused a meeting. Determined to achieve their goal, the tea sellers have promised to mobilise all 1,000 women dealing with this injustice everyday to physically protest at the Locality if they do not receive a satisfying response to their demands as soon as next week.

H., a tea lady who works around the Green Yard, bitterly shares how being denied her right to work has affected her family: “My son got 88.6% in his Sudanese High School Diploma and was accepted into Sudan University for Science and Technology to study Engineering. I couldn’t provide the 600 SDG registration fee because I was prohibited from work since the beginning of the month, as the National Dialogue celebrations took place in the Green Yard. He missed his chance this year.”

A. tells us the manager of the Green Yard, one of the areas affected, assured tea sellers they would be allowed to work again after 15 days surrounding the National Dialogue. She expresses her surprise that after the celebrations marking the end of the Dialogue, the decision continued to prohibit their work indefinitely. “I haven’t worked in 23 days. I spent all of my savings. I started selling some of my house furniture and even sold my gas canister to provide for my family.”

Seeking to maintain the “civilised look of the capital” during the National Dialogue, Locality officers and Public Order police ordered street vendors to cease working in affected areas, adding that they can move elsewhere but would still be subject to police sweeps and fines. Affected areas include around the Green Yard, along Nile Street from Friendship Hall up to Kobar Bridge, the extension of the Tennis Club on Airport Street and some areas in Burri Elsharif. Street vendors, and tea sellers in particular, were threatened with fines as high as 1,500 SDG on Nile Street and 3,000 SDG along Africa Street if they chose to defy these orders and continue working in their usual areas. The Director of Mukhalafat in the Locality, Mr Yasin Salih, stated that “the decision is irreversible because it is coming from high authorities” and will continue to be enforced with the intention to “clear all main streets from tea sellers.”

It is bitterly ironic that the celebration of the National Dialogue, with its promise of more freedoms and equity in Sudan, is being used to justify such a blatant violation of basic human rights and dignity. Women tea sellers are continuously exploited as a major source of income for the local authorities while at the same time being harassed by those very authorities who view their public presence as ‘indecent’ and now ‘uncivil.’

Despite this maltreatment, women tea sellers financially provide for a considerable portion of the city’s population, revitalize public space, and significantly enrich Khartoum’s urban civic life.

For more information:

Altaghyeer Newspaper. (2016). The ‘Leap’ Dialogue Causes Stopping Tea Sellers’ Work and Football Matches.

Altaghyeer Newspaper. (2016). A New Decision Against Tea Sellers in Khartoum.

Altaghyeer Newspaper. (2016). National Dialogue Outcomes Prohibit 100 Tea Sellers From Work.