Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Valdina: street vending should be legal

Interview with Valdina de Assis Andrade da Silva

Valdina at Rio+20 Peoples Summit  
Valdina is 56 years old and lives in the Campo Elisos district of Sao Paolo. She works in the Praça da Republica, or Republic Square, which is one of the main squares in the centre of Sao Paolo.  She has a cart and sells drinks, water, chocolates, chewing gums and sweets.  She buys the goods from supermarkets in the centre, called Bombayano and Millgraus.  She works during the night from 12 midnight until 5 am in the morning because it is when there is less police control. The best days are after pay day (16th and 30th of every month) and on Saturday night. Much also depends on the weather – if it is a hot night then she will sell more.  On a good day she can earn up to R$ 70- 90 (which is about USD 35-40) but on the bad days, she may lose all her goods.

“I don’t have a license to trade and the police often confiscate our goods.  We are always looking out for the police when we are selling.  Even at night, the police sometimes come and we have to run as fast as we can to avoid them. Between midnight and 5am is the quiet time.  Some people work between 6am-8am but there is more risk that the police will catch you. If they come in large numbers, there is nothing we can do as they trap us in a corner near the square.  Then we lose everything.  Even if they give us a document stating they have confiscated our goods, the value of our goods is less than the fine.  Also when we have perishable goods – and they say drinks like Coca-Cola and Guaraná are perishable -they won’t return them. So we lose everything that day.

Valdina returns home and then has to store her goods. She goes to sleep around 7am but she has to get up again around mid-day as there are always other things to do.  She is active in the Sao Paolo Street Traders Forum and she also has to help her daughter with her two young children, who are 5 and 2 years old. Her daughter works in a restaurant so if the children are sick or it is a school holiday, she has to help with the children.  Most of the other vendors are women who are also helping their families in different ways. 

“I am also studying middle school as I did not finish my school education when I was young.  It is not easy but I am determined!  I like my work, I like to meet people but it is not easy.

We are facing many problems now.  The Mayor of Sao Paulo, Gilberto Kassab, has not been friendly to us.  We think there are over 150,000 street vendors in Sao Paulo but there are fewer and fewer who have a license. The Mayor says there are 4500 with licenses but we think it is much less than that.  They take the license away from you using any excuse.  The licenses were meant to be for physically handicapped people and for retired people who don’t have a pension. But the Mayor has taken them away without any regard for their needs.

We don’t want to break any laws but we need to work and earn money.  In Sao Paolo, there are not many jobs for people who are over 50 years, or who don’t have much education.  I would like to work legally, I would like to be respected and work during the day.  The Sao Paolo Forum of Street Vendors is fighting for our work to be recognised and to be legal.”

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