Street Vendors Organizing

Street vendor IndiaStreet vending organizations can be found in cities worldwide. Some vendors are organized according to the urban space wherethey work, such as a particular street, block, market, or area. Other vendors are organized according to the product they sell.

Most organizations play a dual role: internally, they assist their members in securing a space on the street, accessing credit and savings mechanisms, and upgrading their skills; externally, they help mediate vendors’ relationship with local authorities.

Although street vending organizations have existed for decades, some new organizational forms are taking shape in response to changing times. StreetNet International is a global alliance of street vendors whose aim is to promote the exchange of information and ideas on critical issues facing street vendors worldwide. Read about some of StreetNet International's organizing activities.

There are also many examples of innovative organizations at the local and national levels. The Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) of India and the Red de Mujeres (Women’s Network) of Peru specifically address the concerns of women street vendors, who in many cities form the majority. The Informal Hawkers and Vendors Association of Ghana, a StreetNet affiliate, has been making informal workers voices heard on the political stage in Accra. 

Related Reading

Meet a street vendor whose membership in SEWA has helped her deal with the authorities.

Street Vendors Organising: The Case of the Women’s Network (Red de Mujeres), Lima, Peru by Sally Roever and Lissette A. Linares. (English |Spanish)

Organising Street Vendors: ‘Gente de Confiar’ Radio Programme, Lima, Peru by Sally Roever (English | Spanish)

Challenges

Street vending organizations also face many challenges. Because many street vendors work long hours and generate little income, they find it difficult to devote time to their organizations. Some organizations also struggle to build durable democratic institutions where everyone’s voice can be heard.

Recent Triumphs

India’s Street Vendors Win the Fight for their Lives – In February 2014, the upper house of the Indian Parliament passed the long-fought-for Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, making India the first country to adopt progressive, centralized legislation in favour of street vendors. The National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) and SEWA, both members of WIEGO, were at the centre of the decades-long struggle for this Bill, which has provisions that protect livelihoods, social security and human rights for more than 10 million urban street vendors across India. If effectively implemented, the legislation will end many barriers and the constant harassment by police and municipal officials in cities and towns across India.

Street Vendors in Lima Shape Groundbreaking Regulation for Vending in Public Spaces – In May 2014, the Metropolitan Lima City Council approved a new Ordinance that will regulate and protect street vending in the public spaces of Peru’s capital – a culmination of a three year consultative process that involved organizations of street vendors across Metropolitan Lima, involving more than 150 street vendor federations, along with leaders and municipal authorities. The consensus-building process involved incorporating proposals and suggestions offered by street vendors  in the pro-poor Ordinance text.

The Ordinance prioritizes a more fair licensing policy aimed at vendors in difficult situations (e.g. women heads-of-households, seniors, and people with disabilities). Licenses, given for two years, are temporary. The vision is to promote the street vendor to leave the streets through a process of capacity building, individual and collective savings, and credit. The creation of a tripartite committee to resolve issues is another novel feature; the committee will include representatives from the municipality, street vendors, and local residents.

Related Reading

India's National Policy on Urban Street Vendors by Shalini Sinha and Sally Roever

Working in Warwick: Including Street Traders in Urban Plans by Richard Dobson and Caroline Skinner with Jillian Nicholson

Saving the 'Mother Market': Mobilizing Street Vendors in Durban by Richard Dobson