The rise in the number of women peddlers on the streets of Iran is one of the most visible signs that the campaign to empower women heads of households, was a vain illusion.
The Directorate of Women and Family Affairs has made claims about women’s empowerment, but it never really addressed the condition of disadvantaged women.
On 10 April, the state-run Jam-e Jam Website reported that “more than 200,000 women lost their jobs last year, and some of them were added to the population of women peddlers.”
The Covid-19 outbreak has caused many women to stay at home over the last year, denying them job prospects. During this time, the proportion of women participating in the labor force plummeted.
The authorities’ responses to the rising number of female peddlers have only helped to exacerbate the peddlers’ situation. Reinstating the peddling ban not only fails to solve the issue but also worsens the plight of female peddlers.
Markets in red-zone cities have closed due to the widespread of the Coronavirus. As a result, foot traffic is down, prices are up while purchases are down, and women’s jobs and business prospects are down.
On 14 April, the state-run Hamshahri website published an article about women peddlers’ living conditions, many of whom are the sole breadwinners in their households:
Naseri is a mother of two and a 29-year-old woman from Ahvaz. For the past few years, she has been handselling in order to sustain her 10-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. Due to the hardships caused by the global pandemic, she has been unable to pay the $129 rent on her family’s dilapidated home.
They have to go days without eating lunch or dinner. Naseri used to sell tablecloths, but when the price of tablecloths went up, he turned to napkins. Her earnings from selling napkins are insufficient to support her living expenses. Naseri said, “I go selling with my 10-year-old son.” “Sometimes a few napkins fall from his hand to the ground, and then people are afraid to buy them.”
This single mother and her son go to the garbage dump at night to collect and sell plastics and cardboard boxes. Her husband is incarcerated. Throughout these years, she has offered no institutional assistance.
Sharifa is a street vendor in Ahvaz. She is the mother of two sons. Her husband worked in construction until he was injured on the job and became disabled. Sharifa is now the head of her family. Wide beans, okra, and other vegetables are among the vegetables she sells (Persian fresh herbs platter). These are items that people rarely buy from peddlers
The regime still tries to falsely demonstrate support for these women who are in need by referring to initiatives such as women leaders’ empowerment.
However, stories of women like Sharifa and Naseri, show the reality of the situation and these are just examples of how destructive and uncaring are the policies of the ruling Mullahs, which fail to support their own people.