Updated: Mar 8
Parents send out their children for street hawking when they must make ends meet but cannot afford to rent a shop or stall; and their customers, being busy city dwellers commuting all day, in turn enjoy the convenience that the roadside hawking offers. But street hawking, both the money it brings to the family and the convenience it gives to commuters, is at the expense of the girl-child.
Most of the children sent out to hawk are girls. Many poor parents or guardians do not see the need to spend money sending their girl-child to school since they will be somebody’s property in no time, while others disguise with religion or culture.
Therefore, the girl-child hawker must either balance street hawking with education or entirely and eventually drop out of school to fend for the family. Those who balance school and street hawking tend to have poorer academic performance, which may eventually lead them to drop out. This generally puts the poor girl-child at a disadvantage position from childhood compared to the poor boy-child who ends up completing education.
Africa has the highest number of "out of school" children, most of whom are females. This trend amongst other factors reduces the chances of a woman climbing to top-level positions or holding a position of authority with no degree.
A survey of 435 Nigerian secondary school students found that youths who engage in street hawking are mostly females between 10 and 13 years of age. Ideally, these children should be in the classroom, but that is a far cry from reality. So eventually, many of these girls are forced or encouraged to drop out of school.
A study of 200 children in Olorunda Local Government area of Osun State also revealed that while both girls and boys were involved in street hawking, girls formed the majority (89%) of street hawkers.
Considering the gender bias against females that already exist in many societies, having no academic degree just tips the scale in the favor of males.
In the presence of poverty, most street hawkers venture into hawking to make money for the family; so if living conditions are better, it would greatly minimize child street hawking.
Therefore, achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1, i.e. “No poverty” remains the only viable solution for ending girl-child hawking and creating gender balance in terms of equal access to education and economic opportunities for the girl-child.
As far as most African governments and elites are concerned, street hawking is a nuisance that should be out-rightly banned. And it makes sense since street hawkers often deface the environment, occasionally cause accidents, and sometimes contribute to long commuting hours. But a ban is not the solution: it will only push more people into poverty, and human ingenuity will make the poor find other questionable/criminal means to survive.
In lifting more people out of poverty, a good strategy would be to invest more in the service or agriculture industry (the two biggest employers of labor in Africa). This will create more gainful employment opportunities, which will in turn minimize street hawking, and enable a level-playing field for women to be educated and qualify for top leadership roles.
Article Credit: Michael Adesanya