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Women informal food traders during COVID-19: a South African case study

Source Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity
Authors S. SinyoloP. JacobsA. NyamwanzaM. Maila
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
Print HSRC Library: shelf number 9812383
handle 20.500.11910/19457
Varied roles of informal food traders, ranging from localised distribution of foods to provision of jobs, became more accentuated in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa. While women might be the majority of informal food traders, they are more likely than men to suffer a heavier burden of the adverse outcomes, due to structural, social, institutional and administrative biases. This article draws from a survey of 840 informal food traders in South Africa to investigate the extent to which the impacts of COVID-19, and the government assistance measures, were gendered. Adopting a gendered lens and analysing the data using descriptive statistics, the findings show that the informal food traders experienced significant disruptions, which led to business closures, fewer customers, reduced supplies, and increased operating costs. Further, the study found that the informal enterprises operated by women experienced higher impacts than those owned by men. The analysis also shows that while access to COVID-19-related assistance from either state or nonstate actors was generally limited, women had the least access to it. The findings of the study indicate that women experienced the worst economic effects of the pandemic, yet received the least assistance. This highlights the need to improve the gender sensitivity of interventions. The role of informal food traders and women in the country's agri-food system needs to be acknowledged and harnessed. It is crucial that an updated information management system be established, that is not only inclusive of informal food traders, but that specific focus should be exerted in identifying those enterprises operated by marginalised actors, such as women.