The following photos and article were composed by our Youth Reporter on the Ground Edna Sibanda of our affiliate SAITA in South Africa and are part of our campaign to celebrate International Day of Street Vendors 2021.
Juliet Thandeka Sibanda, a driven and passionate woman who has been an informal trader for more than 31 years shares what motivated her to join the informal society and what kept her going throughout the years. “I have always been business-minded and driven, my journey began when I was 14 years old”
She continues to share that she had to grow up a little early so she can help fend for her family after the passing of her father, which left them with a lot of financial burdens. As a result of this, Juliet was never able to finish school and being a street vendor became the only way for her to survive.
As a street vendor, she has been faced with a lot of challenges over the years. The biggest challenge has been the uncertainty and insecurity of the informal community. They have had to fight for the municipality to let them keep working at their stalls for a very long time, sometimes they would go for days without any work because of this.
Another challenge she has had to face has been keeping up with the ever-growing competition in the informal community. The rise of unemployment in the country has led to overwhelming numbers of informal traders and this has made it harder for the traders to profit from this.
“When I started working as a vendor, it was mainly for survival but as the years progressed it helped me reach my dreams. I have been able to put my kids through school and build myself a house”. She continued to explain how she learned financial management and some business management as well, which has been helpful in keeping her small business running. She has hopes of growing her business and making sure it remains stable.
Even after the many challenges, she faced as a street vendor, nothing could have prepared her for the challenges that would follow the pandemic. During the strict lockdown, street vendors were not allowed to work and this caused a strain on her finances and she struggled to put food on the table. “I knew I had to come up with another plan before I ran out of resources. I started selling face makes and sanitizers from home which gave me a boost financially“. She continued to explain how you needed to shift with the times as an informal trader and how you need to keep trying to find new ideas to keep you going.
“The uncertainty of the informal society can be very stressful at times”. She also explains that it would be so much easier if the government would assist them with some funding to grow their businesses a little more. It would be easier for them to sustain themselves and their businesses.
Street vendors and other people in the informal community play a big role in the economy which is why investing in them would be great to boost the country’s GDP as a whole.