A tribute to a fierce defender of informal traders and women’s rights

On June 14, 2021, Comfort Doryen passed away. One of the greatest women leaders of StreetNet International, she was a fierce defender of informal traders’ and women’s rights, who leaves behind a rich and inspiring legacy.

In her country of Liberia, Comfort was one of the pioneers for the street and market vending negotiation of Memorandums of Understanding with municipal authorities. A founder of the Federation of Petty Traders & Informal Workers’ Unions of Liberia, she was also an international leader who represented StreetNet/WIEGO in the World Urban Forum and the 2016 HABITAT III international congress, where the New Urban Agenda was adopted.

Comfort also served as a member of the StreetNet International Council. Throughout her years with the organization, she always left a deep impression within the StreetNet family as a forceful and strategic decision-maker. Her passing left many of us heartbroken.

To honor Comfort, StreetNet organized with the support of WIEGO a memorial ceremony. Her comrades from several different countries highlighted Comfort’s deep commitment to the rights of informal traders and her determination in fighting for women’s empowerment, sharing memories and supporting each other.

For Lorraine, StreetNet’s President, Comfort was a close friend and a source of strength. “She contributed a lot to the woman that I am today within StreetNet”, she said. “Comfort was a very firm leader. She had no fear and she stood for what was right”.

Comfort always made sure that the voices of informal traders, particularly women informal traders, was heard, both in Liberia and globally. As Mike Bird, Operations Director of WIEGO who worked with Comfort in global advocacy efforts, stated “She was fearless in speaking up for street vendors, both in Monrovia but also around the world when called upon to do so, and I never saw her take a step backwards.”

Besides her strength and determination, Comfort will also be remembered by her joyful personality. From Senegal to Rwanda to Uruguay, comrades of Comfort shared the impact she had in their lives. Especially in the case of fellow women leaders, with whom Comfort would regularly discuss issues related to feminism and women’s empowerment. As Gabriela Calandria, member of StreetNet International Council from Uruguay, said “This is also part of StreetNet – the sisterhood”.

Comfort passed away in Ghana, where she was undergoing treatments for an illness. The organization she belonged to and founded, the Federation of Petty Traders & Informal Workers’ Unions of Liberia, quickly mobilized to support her family during this difficult time. StreetNet also started a crowdfunding campaign to support the family in bearing the high costs of medical and funeral expenses, which managed to collect over $1,500, mobilizing comrades from all over the world to express solidarity.

We will continue to uphold Comfort’s legacy. “An icon of the movement with a rich legacy” said International Coordinator Oksana Abboud. “And that is how she will stay in our hearts. Sister Comfort, rest in power!”

In the words of former International Coordinator, Pat Horn:

“As we say in South Africa ………

Hamba kahle (go well) our young sister.

Akekho ufana naye (there is nobody quite like her)”