WOMEN IN UGANDA’S INFORMAL ECONOMY ASSERT PROTECTION OF THEIR HUMAN RIGHTS
In the recent past, Kampala’s pedestrian walkways and streets in the central business district and surrounding areas have been cleared of women street vendors in a brutal, inhumane manner pointing to the lack of empathy, absence of human rights consideration and a lack of appreciation for economic diversity citing a need for organization and orderliness, in the operations of the city’s governing authority.
On 21st March 2019, Kampala Capital City Authority, called for a meeting with street vendors majority of whom were women from the Kampala Metropolitan area – where the Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago was present. The major objective of the meeting was to discuss more to the plight of street vendors not limited to confiscation of their goods, eviction from the streets and the unlawful / inhuman harassment and arrests. The meeting which was well-attended brought together street vendors from all divisions of the city. The women vendors originally hailing from different regions of the country are confronted by layers of risks and prohibitions, struggling with local authorities, sexual harassment and exploitation by state apparatus, to mention a few.
In this meeting, the Lord Mayor encouraged the Authority to adhere to the law and recognize the rights of the vendors as city dwellers – and instead issue them the rightful licenses to legitimize their involvement on the economic city-scape. Within his jurisdiction, the Lord Mayor’s pledge comes at a time when the city authority has acted against street vendors from a preventive approach. Additionally, he utilized the same platform to reach out to other stakeholders working with street vendors and human rights in order to collectively support his office in advocating in favor of the vendors.
Collectively, a progressive group of women street vendors across three of the five divisions in Kampala, whom SIHA has been working with, are elated to hear of this kind of intervention from the Mayor in a move to find sustainable solutions to two conflicting principles: a city authority that strives for orderliness and an entire informal economy fighting for legitimacy as part of the nation’s economic development.
In the research carried out by SIHA – The Invisible Laborers of Kampala, it is articulated that in Uganda, the informal sector is an important part of the economy at large. In 2014, it was estimated to contribute to over 50% of Uganda’s GDP and employ 80% of its labor force.
Zawedde Asiinah, Chairperson of Wandegeya Women Vendors Cooperative adds “I think instead of the city council chasing us here and there even after 6:00pm, it does not profit the government. Our trade must be regulated; KCCA must allocate us time rather than storming after 5pm to confiscate our goods”.
SIHA is optimistic that a multitude of these issues can be resolved if the authorities exert effort into understanding their plight better in order to come up with positive policy contribution in addition to coming up with sustainable solutions. Additionally, this presents an opportunity for other key stakeholders to be able to provide legal aid services, capacity building, mobilization of extended support, livelihood enhancement and targeted advocacy related to law and policy.
SIHA also recommends that the Kampala Capital City Authority carry out a comprehensive review of the KCCA Act 2010 (Statutory Instrument 243-23) and law reform that recognizes the legitimacy of poor women’s contribution to the national economy. SIHA also recognizes the need to develop progressive welfare programmes aimed at supporting the burgeoning urban poor population through subsidies for basic services, adult literacy and skills development schemes primarily geared towards this social stratum.