Street Vendors in Ahmedabad: Organizing for Job Security

                                                              

Street Vendors in Ahmedabad: Organizing for Job Security

Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO)
Solution proposed by: 
Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)
In a Nutshell: 
SEWA adopted an integrated approach accompanying advocacy work with development activities: capacity building, government linkages, accessing finance, etc. It began with the organization of street vendor members who further worked towards increasing representation on formal decision-mak¬ing bodies, accessing basic services and social security, and finding local solutions to issues.
Where and When: 
The described activities took place in Ahmedabad, India, from 2009 to 2014.
Challenges: 
Approximately 170,000 vendors support themselves and dependents through street vending. In 2011-2012, they comprised 14 per cent of total urban employ¬ment and 32 per cent of women’s urban employment. A number of countervailing forces impact ven¬dors, restrictive laws and apathetic attitudes of local government and city police among them. Specifically, the challenges SEWA addresses are: • Vendor displacement due to city development • Bribes, harassment, confiscations • Difficulties securing licenses • Irregular income • Lack of inclusion in development plans and decision-making bodies • Lack of social security and basic services • Occupational health hazards • Unfavourable entry conditions for new (women) entrants
Innovation: 
SEWA has an integrated approach where it works on multiple issues faced by its members simultaneously. In the case of Ahmedabad’s street vendors, SEWA’s advocacy efforts have been accompanied by linking members to government services and access to finance, and by offering capacity building trainings. This web of activities not only meets the multi¬ple needs of street vendors, but also provides them with short-term gains during their long advocacy struggles.
Concept: 
Organizing is key to all SEWA’s activities. SEWA generally takes the approach of organizing vendors at their workspaces. One leader represents every 200 SEWA members, and these leaders form the Trade Committee. Additionally, there are individual market committees. This system of organization empowers vendors to address the problems they face on a daily basis and gives them a platform from which they are able to make their voices heard. As a result, SEWA is able to deal concurrently with the multiple and complex issues that vendors face, such government urban development projects, government and police apathy, restrictive laws, and so on, while also increasing the vendors’ capacity through workshops and training sessions to engage formal decision-making bodies, access social protection and basic services, find local solutions to issues, and so on.
Description: 
Trade Committee: Ahmedabad’s Trade Committee met once a month to discuss market vendor issues and create action plans to deal with them. Market Committees: A Market Committee is an elected body for the respec¬tive market, comprising both SEWA members and other market leaders. Each Market Committee is responsible for the overall man¬agement of that market (e.g., flow of traffic, allocation of space, cleanliness, etc.). Urban Development: In cases where development displaces street vendors, SEWA makes the effort to work with the city to find solutions that benefit everyone involved. It identifies alternate spaces for vending and provides the AMC with rehabilita¬tion plans. Market Schematic Plan: The Jamalpur Market committee created a schematic plan, providing a platform for vendors to work with the AMC to address traffic jams around the Jamalpur market, unhygienic market conditions, vendor harassment, and evictions. Advocacy: SEWA achieved the following: • In 2001, a task force to formulate a street vendor policy • In 2004, the first National Policy on Urban Street Vendors • In 2010, a Town Vending Committee (TVC) was formed with representatives from street vendor unions Welfare Board: SEWA ensured that at least nine informal economy trades were included in the Gujarat Unorganized Work¬er’s Welfare Board (GUWWB) and offered figures for the minimum welfare needs of informal workers. SEWA link¬ed informal economy workers with the GUWWB and helped members fill out forms, submit them, and follow up on the receipt of the benefits. Capacity building: To ensure that street vendors are empowered to build their own membership-based organizations (like market committees), make participa¬tory decisions, negotiate with the local authorities, and operate efficiently while working, SEWA, SEWA Acad¬emy, and SEWA Bank conduct training sessions on an ongoing basis. From 2009 to 2013, 1,250 street vendors were trained in leadership, member education, subscrip¬tion, business counseling, and financial management.
Impacts: 
a) The 2014 Street Vendors’ Act, protecting vendor livelihoods and regulating their work, was enacted. b) 402 elected Trade Committee vendor leaders were empowered to find solu¬tions to market-level issues and to negotiate with city police and the AMC. c) SEWA built multiple membership-based organizations to deal with members’ daily issues. d) For the first time, vendors were included on a decision-making TVC comprising the Municipal Cor¬poration and vendor unions/associations. e) SEWA’s schematic plan of Jamalpur Market, used to address common market problems, can be replicated across the city. f) SEWA secured the working space and livelihoods of 1,326 vendors.