Saturday December 03, 2022

Sania Nishtar visits G-11 to review street hawkers’ economy

By Our Correspondent
March 23, 2021

Islamabad: In a bid to improve the operating environment for street vendors through multi-stakeholder engagement, Ehsaas is collaborating with the Islamabad Municipality, CDA and the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) to explore a sustainable and the evidence-based solution to support street vendors. “Ehsaas is aware of the difficult working conditions for street vendors, but it is also a matter of fact that other citizens also have the right on the usage of public space,” stated Dr. Sania Nishtar while talking to street vendors during her visit to G-11 Markaz here on Monday.

The visit aimed to review the street vendors’ economy firsthand and to realize the positive role and potential of street vendors in supporting poverty alleviation efforts. Dr. Sania toured the whole Markaz, met different street vendors and listened to their plight. It included 42-year Shaheen Akhtar, the only female street vendor in the market, who is selling home-cooked food. Street vendors informed Dr. Nishtar about various operational issues being faced by them in the market. Syeda Shafaq Hashmi, Administrator Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad and Zia Banday, Focal Person for Street Vendors’ Initiative at the Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division also accompanied Dr. Sania.

At present, 85 street vendors are operating in the area, among which some have been vending for over 15-years, but none of them has any vending license. Lack of legal status makes vendors susceptible to frequent eviction campaigns and rent-seeking exploitation. The majority of the street vendors are less educated and low-skilled migrants from other areas of the country, who have limited capacity and resources for earning their livelihood. Public spaces in markets with sufficient footfall provides them room to make their living.

A whole informal ecosystem existed in commercially viable public spaces for accommodating street vending. On per square feet basis, they are paying more monthly to do their business than the rent of the formal shop in the area. However, perpetual fear and uncertainty of tenure constraints restrict the capacity of vendors to sustain more hygienic practices. Hygienic neglect and market demand is inducing more congestion and cleanliness issues in street vending. Street vendors asked the government to recognise their positive role in the generation of self-sustaining economic activities and poverty alleviation.

Under Ehsaas, Vendors’ Support Group has also been set up which is overseeing the development of a number of interventions in streamlining vending in the city. Ms. Hashmi informed that the municipality is pioneering efforts through the setting-up of a dedicated Street Economy Unit to recognize and organize better governance and management of street vendors. Mr. Banday shared details of an inclusive pilot project for street vendors planned in collaboration with different partners. PIDE has been providing the intellectual input and design of the pilot.