Approximately 450 000 commuters travel through Warwick Junction, a transport interchange and informal trading hub situated in the centre of Durban, every day. The livelihoods of around 8000 informal workers are sustained in the area. Of those, more than half are women. There are a number of women in the markets of Warwick Junction who are not only engaged in productive labour (i.e. as informal workers), but also reproductive labour (i.e. raising a child). These women have a right to work and a right to physical and mental health. Their children have the rights to care and other interventions that optimise their health and development. However, the settings in which these mothers work leave them vulnerable to gender inequity, environmental hazards, and structural disadvantages, which often compromise their ability to care for their children in the way they would choose, as well as compromising their own health and productivity at work (many mothers are forced to bring their children to work with them, which research has shown to have a negative impact on their businesses).  

Since 2017, Asiye eTafuleni (AeT) has been involved in a collaboration called Urban Livelihoods and Nurturing Care projects (uLiNCs), together with international partners; Women in Informal Employment Globalising and Organising (WIEGO), Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS), Kenyan National Alliance of Street Vendors and Informal Traders (KENASVIT), and led by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The uLiNCs partners have been proactively working with informal workers in a number of different sectors and settings, researching the local limitations to providing the critical components of nurturing childcare, with the aim of identifying effective, feasible, acceptable and scalable solutions that enhance the ability of mothers working in the informal economy to help their children reach their developmental potential, while sustaining their own livelihoods and maintaining their own health. 

AeT’s focus has been on creating ‘safer spaces’ for children of informally working mothers in Warwick Junction. With the aim of creating an environment which is conducive to optimal child health, safety, and development, AeT has engaged in a process to co-design (with the mothers) and pilot, micro-scale (6-8 children) pop-up childcare facilities for children aged 6 months to 3 years. It is now widely accepted that the first 1000 days of a child’s life are critical to their development. This pilot will transform underutilised portions of the market into ‘safer spaces’ in which children can engage in age-appropriate activities under the supervision of a trained caregiver, while remaining in close proximity to their mothers.

The pilot facility is scheduled to open on the 1st of July 2021 in the Early Morning Market (the fresh produce market in Warwick Junction). An appropriate space has been identified (and is in the process of being painted, and stocked with all the necessary equipment), the area manager has given her full permission, and there are mothers who work in this market who have expressed a desire for a facility of this kind. At the beginning of 2020, 7 informally working mothers went through the EduBabe training program and are now all certified caregivers. Two of these mothers will be entrusted with the care of the children at the facility. The mothers whose children attend the facility will pay an affordable fee, and AeT will subsidize the rest of the caregivers’ salaries (which will be in line with the market value).

Here are links to relevant blog posts or resources where you can learn more about the project and how it has progressed over the years:

Report: Identifying approaches for mothers in the informal economy to sustain their livelihood and remain healthy and for their children to achieve their development potential.