The Rural Unknown Basic Rights for Vendors

Good news came this week of the newly announced “Vendors’ Registration Programme” where 178 provisions vendors, craft vendors and “roadside traders” became registrants.

Perks of the programme include free access to public bathrooms, job identification letters and tent packages. Now although I say good news, it felt like this programme should have been in force decades ago. I commend the Castries Constituency Council for its work but reading the benefits of the programme made me feel upset that vendors have been deprived of these basic amenities for so long.  

Even the line “free access to public bathrooms” made me cringe. Should not vendors already have had access to that, particularly when they play such a vital role in cruise-tourism? The Castries Market is one of the first depictions of the authenticity of Saint Lucia that cruise ship tourists observe when they walk from Point Seraphine to Castries.

Another concern is the simple fact of modernization.

While our vendors are still trading as they have done from the days of their ancestors, they have been denied necessities to present themselves as Saint Lucia’s finest artisans, farmers and micro-entrepreneurs. Training for finance modernization such as non-cash payments, uniforms, labelling and, first and foremost, customer service, is sorely needed. 

The Vendors’ Registration Programme is a baby step but, if we keep moving at this snail’s pace, the Vendors’ Arcade and Castries Central Market will look less and less like an attractive option for talented micro-entrepreneurs. As Nelson Mandela once said, “A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” If so, what does the treatment of our vendors say about us as a nation?

Helen's Daughters (HD) is a non-profit organization that focuses on the economic development of rural women through improved market access, adaptive agricultural techniques, and capacity-building.

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