Restoring our Mothers' Dignity
My Digital Action Campaignaims toRestoreour Mothers’ Dignity, with“Imagine it was your mother” as slogan. It will be heldfromJune toDecember 2017. Women need this for their dignity and the wellbeing of their families, while authorities need this for the cleanliness and safety of the Kigali city as they use to call it.
Most of the vendors dotting Kigali’s bustling streets are women – and mothers, already marginalized by various societal restrictions including limited opportunities for education and formal employment. They are seen as “an impediment to cleanliness” by Kigali city officials. In most cases, from descriptions by vendors and anyone’s self observation, scenes of police and local defense running after street vendors – often mothers with children on their backs – is common in Kigali, followed by imprisonment in transit centers for unspecified times.
The conditions in these centers are harsh and inhuman, and beatings are commonplace. Detainees have inadequate food, water, and health care; suffer frequent beatings; and rarely leave their filthy, overcrowded rooms. Several people died during or just after their detention, allegedly as a result of a combination of injuries from beatings, poor conditions, and lack of medical care. Among these include a mother who was harassed and beaten severely by security guards trying to confiscate her goods in the most public bus station, in front of many witnesses last year; she died almost immediately. Her death illustrates not only the precarious security for street vendors, but also the lack of trust between them and the police, as a result of years of abuse and continuing impunity for officers who persecute the vendors.
They should not treat them in such a way. They should approach them and tell them that it is against the law to sell in the streets. The laws should result in the police protecting, rather than endangering the public, including street vendors. And no one choose street vending and facing inhuman conditions while detained, unless it is the only way they know to feed themselves and their loved ones.
My target audience includes women who are street vendors, around 6000 in Kigali city. Most of these women are single mothers, had early pregnancy, and some of them are rape victims. While struggling to feed their kids, they become pregnant again and again. When they leave their home for hawking, they keep their children in closed houses and when they are arrested and locked, their children who are left in closed houses stay alone crying the whole night, sometimes they try to cook at their 3 to 8years old and are burned with their houses... and many other worse cases may happen! My target audience also includes Kigali city authorities and police officers. We aim on raising awareness to rebuild the trust and respect between them and vendors in order to work together toward our vision as one nation.
Media I will use include radio and TV program in form of debate, giving open microphone to the audience to discuss about this issue and challenge everyone to come up with a smooth solution. I will also use Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness, posters of vendors’ true stories in their own words in short to be discussed in full in our program. I will organize with poetry events that use to happen every month to get one with the theme: “Imagine it was your mother” framing women challenges as street vendors. After the poetry event, I will make a short documentary featuring street vendors’ challenges in Rwanda, mostly in Kigali city, what they go through, possible alternatives to quit street vending as illegal business in Rwanda and some testimonies of those who have been able to do so; and it will feature women’s rights and the way authorities should treat them with respect for their dignity. This video will be shared on YouTube and screened in public places where street vendors use to hawk.
As a result of my campaign, police will treat vendors with sensitivity and vendors will respect the law. With our advocacy to provide vocational training and trainings on socio-economic development, those women who used to be street vendors will no longer return to the street and will finally be able to feed and educate their children, obtain health insurance for family members and also invest in future savings.
How to Get Involved
To support us on this work, share your ideas with these hashtags:
#UbubyeyiSiUkubyaraGusa (which means "being a parent is not giving birth only")