When mechanisms in place fail to fully protect the vulnerable, then empowerment and knowledge remains the only defensive stronghold for the protection of informal workers’ rights.
Incident forums are designed as an advocacy tool to advance socio-economic rights for informal traders in urban spaces and are being piloted in Warwick Junction, Durban CBD and Bester areas, and has seemingly received positive support. The forum was established on the 22nd of August 2018 by Asiye eTafuleni (AeT) to provide a platform that seeks to normalise a discussion about enforcement challenges, provide legal awareness and educate traders on their rights. Since then, trader leader committees from all spheres, namely; the herb market, bead market, street traders, bovine head cooks, have regularly met to discuss street challenges incurred in informal work.
Street traders encounter a number of challenges, such as; the allocation of trading space, permit application processes, impoundment and confiscation of goods, stringent trading policies and other systematic impediments introduced by municipalities. In order to curb and address the aforesaid, the trader incident forums were established as legal affirmation of the rights of informal workers and the work they are doing in the context of constitutional entitlements and municipal bylaws. The Know your Rights’ initiative with OSFSA, led to the establishment of the incident forum to empower traders on how to independently challenge bylaws, policies and other ancillary issues. The main objectives are to provide a platform for traders to assess, discuss and report issues affecting informal traders through mapping out strategies and viable intervention mechanisms to address their challenges. Furthermore, the forum will address the trends drawn from reported issues raised therein through research and engagement with the relevant stakeholders (drafting letters, representation at municipal courts, attending to subpoenas, issued writs and summons).
The project has evolved into the development of Know your Rights’ street manuals (that will be available in both isiZulu and English) enabling informal workers to be resourced with constitutional entitlements and municipal bylaws when confronting the regular challenges they encounter on the streets. These manuals will be finalised and disseminated to over 5,000 informal workers during the course of 2019.
“Give a [person] a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach a [person] to fish and you feed them for a lifetime”[Old Chinese proverb by Lao Zhu
The general principle of alleviating poverty by facilitating self-sufficiency has a long history and is equally relevant to informal workers on the streets of Durban. Socio-economic empowerment is vital for informal workers and indisputably achieved through knowledge dissemination which is the core objective of the incident forums.