TOP STORIES – Giving Women in Zimbabwe’s Informal Sector Rights

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Zimbabwe: Giving Women in Zimbabwe’s Informal Sector Rights

Harare — Mollin Siyanda, 46, a single mother of three from Harare’s low-income suburb of Hatcliffe, is scared of being arrested by the council police as she sells fruit, vegetables and second-hand clothes on the pavement of the city centre without a permit.

“I take the (fruit and clothes) to the city centre to resell on the street pavements during evenings at peak hours as people are rushing back home,” she says of the goods she purchases every day at Mbare Musika, a major market in Harare.

“But I’m always operating under constant fear of council cops who often accuse me of being an illegal vendor,” Siyanda tells IPS.

Selling goods without a licence from the Harare council authorities is illegal here.

But a licence costs 20 dollars, which is a large sum to the many working in the informal economy who earn on average between two to five dollars a day.

According to Philip Bohwasi, chairperson of the Council of Social Workers in Zimbabwe, the country’s unemployment rate is 84 percent. As a result, a great majority of people currently work in the informal sector, and hundred of vendors have set up their stands at undesignated points across the city.

Siyanda’s story is one example of the situation that a number of Zimbabwe’s working women constantly face.

According to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), over 60 percent of Zimbabwean women working in both the formal and informal sector are now the breadwinners in their families, as their husbands have succumbed to HIV/AIDS or were retrenched from their jobs.

“It’s true that women have become breadwinners. Some women have been widowed or their husbands left for greener pastures or were retrenched, leaving their wives to venture into the informal sector,” says Fiona Magaya, gender coordinator for ZCTU.

Ahead of May 1, International Workers’ Day, women trade unionists in this Southern African nation have called for government leaders to recognise informally-employed women.

Magaya tells IPS that the trade union has asked the Zimbabwe Chamber of the Informal Economy Association to persuade local authorities to allow informally-employed women to “to carry out their jobs without being nagged by police.”

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