what we work on

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Urban Women Vendors

safer working conditions for 30,000 street sellers

On city streets across Tanzania thousands of women sell low-value goods to support themselves and their families. The majority of these urban vendors, or “machinga,” work long hours to earn the equivalent of less than five US dollars per day. It is precarious, dangerous work in very poor conditions. Many female vendors resort to transactional sex to survive fluctuating business, or will be victims of harassment and sexual violence, especially during hours of darkness. Unlicensed and informal, these workers are regularly displaced and have little, if any, say in the design and deployment of public services such as lighting, lavatories and market spaces. 

In recent months President John Magafuli has put pressure on local authorities to improve working conditions for machinga. I4ID is harnessing this political will to ensure the needs of women urban vendors are successfully addressed. In 2018 the President issued 25,000 street vendor ID cards to each region of Tanzania, which exempt machinga from paying tax. Municipal authorities in Mwanza and Mbeya approached I4ID for guidelines on how to assign the cards effectively and we oversaw the distribution of IDs in both cities. 

Longer-term our goal is to improve the business environment, services and livelihoods for up to 30,000 urban street vendors in Mwanza and Mbeya. We are working to see urban street vending translate into inclusive city planning and safer working conditions, especially for female vendors. 

We have conducted extensive, unprecedented research with machinga and their advocates to accurately characterise the challenges they face and ensure municipal authorities are well informed before policy making starts. Coordination is critical between vendor representatives and the multiple agencies that have an interest in controlling vendor activities - from tax authorities to urban planners - to ensure machinga voices are no longer marginalised. To that end I4ID brings these parties together in regular workshops and coalition events.