An assessment into the socio-economic circumstances of female street vendors in the informal economy. A case of Robert Mugabe street, Harare, Zimbabwe
Mapisa, Tendai S.
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The study sought to assess the socio economic circumstances of female street vendors in the informal economy in the case of Robert Mugabe Street in Harare. The objectives of the study were to identify the driving forces behind women street vending, assess the socio- economic challenges being faced by female street vendors and explore the coping strategies being employed by the female street vendors to deal with the challenges they are facing. The study used qualitative research design and an interview guide was used in data collection. There was no integrated database on the actual number of female street vendors operating along Robert Mugabe Street. Moreover, getting the actual number of street vendors was also not easy due to the nature of their operation. However the researcher managed to interview 30 respondents using an interview guide and two key informants from Harare Municipal police department after purposive sampling. The research found that female street vendors join vending because of poverty, lack of education, unemployment and need to support their family and due to absences of opportunities to engage in the formal sector. The research also found that there are several challenges being faced by female street vendors operating along Robert Mugabe Street in Harare. These challenges include lack of working place, harassment and eviction from selling place by municipal police, lack of credit to finance their businesses, burden of child rearing in the streets and household responsibilities. The study showed that despite numerous constraints placed on various groups of street vendors, these groups had actually developed survival and resistance strategies that enabled them to maintain their livelihoods from public urban space. These strategies included paying bribes and protection fees to city authorities, running away from municipal police, using a square sheet during vending, subtle and innovative arrangements and even open protest and direct confrontation with the city authorities. This was because for many street vendors, the street provided them with an honourable and respectable means of livelihood. Therefore, providing free-space, regulating the street vendors by issuing licenses, providing training and credit, starting entrepreneurial cooperatives, developing small-scale agro-industries in rural areas, including permanent markets and working places in the master plan of the city were recommended