As in many parts of the world or even in North East India, women form an intrinsic or maybe the most vital part of the street vending community in Nagaland. Being wives, mothers, single mothers, widows and even sisters trying to earn a living, they sell products ranging from vegetables to fruits, poultry to frogs, farm yields to wild produces, the list is endless. We see these women studding the roads across the town, in market sheds and in narrow lanes as they sell vegetable and clothes etc. They start the day at the crack of dawn and are there till late in the evening hoping to catch a customer or two.
Many of these women are engaged in this business due to sheer compulsion and lack of available choices. Some of the women admit to adding to the incomes of their families even though their husbands could be employed or engaged in other income generating activities. Nevertheless, the larger group of these womenfolk admit to have taken up the mantle of insuring income in their families as a desperate measure – being widowed, marriage to substance abused husbands or destitution.
As these women vendors sit by side-walks ofalmost every town in Nagaland,there are subject to harassment from many factors including human and natural. They are compelled to remain in their ‘spots’ whether it is rainy, sunny or windy. In Kohima and Dimapur especially many of these women constantly have to relocate due to reasons related to administrative directives oreither being refused the space by other private land owners. Many of them confess that they do not want to sell their products at the designated spots owing to lack of sale even over long periods.There is also no provision by the local authorities or municipal to ensure for their safety or their basic amenities leave aside “comfort” in the spots that they claim.
In the absence of proper toilets, these women are subject to very real health threats. Many of them complain about urinary infections or even kidney infections due to the practise of abstaining from even drinking water so that they can refrain from using the toilets, as such facilities are almost absent in urban Nagaland.
The lack of know-how among this section of society is also a major concern as common observationsand it is a common observation that even after so many years; many of these women do not climb up the economic ladder. A lot of them are unaware about how to plan financially for their future besides stock management, book keeping etc.
In Nagaland, where there is a growing concern about the growing numbers of non-local business people, our women are holding the fort in terms of retailing local yields and they are doing so without support or help from any area of our society.
Given the experience of EA in the entrepreneurial world, EA has initiated this novel project of “Uplifting Women Street vendors” to provide some basic inputs that will go a long way to help them in their endeavour. The project which was launched in October 2017 hopes to train and mentor women from this sector by engaging with them for a period of six months to a year. Emphasising on the importance of financial literacy and management, the project will involve them in sessions that will also cover health and legal education, customer service, business ethics among others.
(A project of the Entrepreneurs Associates)