TM Says to Organize Subway Vendors

TM Says to Organize Subway VendorsTM Says to Organize Subway Vendors

The Office for Empowerment of Women Breadwinners affiliated to Tehran Municipality has a plan in cooperation with the Tehran Subway Organization to classify and organize subway vendors instead of resorting to crackdowns and other harsh measures.

According to the CEO of Tehran Metro, all subway vendors including women will be identified and organized under the joint project.

“Given that there was a legal vacuum on how to prosecute subway vendors, we decided to systematize subway vending after the necessary research and debate,” Mohammad Ahmadi Bafandeh told ISNA.

Metro vendors have increased exponentially over the past few years as the Tehran subway system expanded to 102 stations in five major lines. Without regular permits to sell, they remain at the mercy of both police and metro staff to earn their livelihood by selling products from essential home supplies to junk food and knickknacks.

The informal economic sector provides critical opportunity for the poor and has been expanding rapidly since the 1960s globally. Unlike the formal economy, activities of the informal sector are not included in the gross national product (GNP) and gross domestic product of a country. As such, integrating the informal economy into the formal sector is an important policy challenge.

According to Ahmadi, there are two groups of vendors operating on trains and subway stations across the capital: the underprivileged ones who are in need of money but might have other skills that they cannot put to use due to financial constraints and mostly comprise women, and those who come on a daily basis from poorer neighborhoods and outlying areas to do their vending business.

The women empowerment office has a comprehensive database on female breadwinners and their living status, Ahmadi said. The database will be instrumental in distinguishing the two groups. Female heads of households will be identified and empowered in various skills.

“The municipality will allocate booths at all 102 subway stations with little or no rent to such women so they can offer their products under supervision by the office.”

Noting that the project will be a great socio-cultural stride in urban management once it takes off, he said “by no means do we intend to harm the income of some of the country’s most vulnerable people, but seek to bring discipline and order in the urban transport system.”

  Space in Bazaars

Ahmadi said male vendors will be provided space in other bazaars across the city, but made no mention of how children who also work on the overcrowded trains alongside adult men and women will be handled.

“The protocol for identifying these purveyors is ready to be directed to pertinent authorities.”

Once the information databases are completed, the Law Enforcement Forces will also cooperate in dealing with the remaining vendors who may not fit into any of the two categories.

Fahimeh Firouzgar, director of the Women Empowerment Office, said female vendors whose name and information is not registered at the office database of breadwinners can apply at their convenience.

“If they are not willing to be registered on the database, they should find a job outside the municipal systems,” she said.

Zahra Saei, MP and member of the Parliament Social Commission, believes this system will help improve the quality of life for female heads of households.

“Most of the female vendors are on the job to earn a living for their families, and they must be organized not rounded off,” she stressed.

The number of women migrating from small towns to the capital is surging every day leading to an increase in female-headed households. The total number of female-headed households in the country has seen  a whopping 55% upswing from 1.2 million in 1991 to 2.5 million in 2015, accounting for 12% of all Iranian households, as stated by the head of the State Welfare Organization, Anoushiravan Mohseni Bandpei.

According to a UNFPA report, over 70% of women-headed households are widows, more than 13% are married, 10% are divorced, and 5% never married. However, the higher rate of divorce is largely blamed for the increasing number of female-headed households.

“Since poverty and the need to provide for their children have drawn this social stratum to streets and subway trains, organizing them would be a positive and constructive move in their lives,” Firouzgar said.