• Human Development

Safe Haven for female street vendors launched

Kigali – UN Women in collaboration with the City of Kigali has launched the Safe Mini Market for Women. Located in the Kimisagara sector, the mini market is a safe haven for women that were street vendors who experienced many different kinds of challenges such as violence, sexual abuse and theft.

The event was attended by Mrs. Fatou Lo, acting representative of UN Women in Rwanda, Judith Kazaire (Vice Mayor in charge of social affairs), The Lord Mayor Monique Mukaruriza, and other representatives of different government institutions. The development of the Mini market is part of the Safe Cities Program that was launched in 2010 by UN Women. The aim of this program is to develop models to prevent and reduce sexual harassment and violence in public spaces. Kigali is one of the five cities that are involved in this program.  The 5 countries where the Safe Cities programme was first implemented are; Quito, Ecuador; Cairo, Egypt; New Delhi, India; Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea; and Kigali, Rwanda.

The act of street vending is illegal in the city of Kigali as it doesn’t conform to the lofty standards the city has set for itself, however, the women say that they lack alternative options. This is where the Kigali Mini Market comes in. It provides women with a safe environment to conduct business and sell their products be it food or clothing. The Kigali City Vice mayor stated that the ‘Safe Market’ is part of efforts aimed at preventing sexual harassment against women and girls in public spaces. Most of these women experienced all kinds of violence when they worked as street vendors and didn’t have any protection, which left them vulnerable to sexual harassment, violence, theft and other forms of abuse from malevolent individuals.

“The City of Kigali is growing very fast and is undergoing a lot of transformation to meet the needs of its citizens. This transformation does not go without affecting all categories of the population, particularly women and girls,” said Fatou Lo.  

Currently there are an estimated 5000 women that work as street vendors and only 60 have been able to receive assistance and refuge from the Mini Market.

“There is a need for more infrastructure of this kind but also for financial literacy, access to training, financing and markets to enhance women’s safety in public spaces and to scale up the efforts to lift more women out of poverty.” The UN Women Rep. added.

The women of the mini market concur with her statement and requested that more partners get involved in this program in order to help save even more women from gender related discriminations and violence.

Rwanda is one of the countries spear heading the fight for gender equality. It has the largest number of male champions who have signed up and dedicated themselves to the HeForShe campaign. The people of Kigali take the fight for gender equality seriously and will not abandon the initiative until there are equal rights, treatment, and safety for all genders.