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Small-scale traders, domestic workers unable to afford social protection: Study

National Organization of Peer Educators (NOPE) coordinator Justus Muthuri

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 11 – Majority of small scale traders in informal settlements are unable to enlist for social security schemes.

According to the National Organization of Peer Educators (NOPE), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) spearheading an awareness initiative dubbed Wezesha Jamii, a study conducted in 2015 when the programme was first rolled out indicated that only 37 per cent of small scale traders were covered.

“Of the 37 per cent, we realized about 4.3 per cent had a National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) cover which is way lowe considering the number of informal traders we have,” said NOPE coordinator Justus Muthuri on Tuesday.

Muthuri noted that majority of the traders were unable to better their living standards owing to the hurdles they encounter while seeking funding from financial institutions.

“Most of them said they feel that banks and other financial institutions are not very open to them for them to be able to acquire finances to expand their businesses,” he said.

The traders also face challenges with county governments officers who have constantly been accused of harassing and extorting traders.

“They reported cases of harassment during arrests and issues of water shortage meaning that essential services in most cases are not available or are inadequate.”

Lack of trading spaces also poses a great danger to such traders who are often compelled to sell their wares by the roadside, according to Muthuri.

Also facing rights violations are women domestic workers who are said to be earning way below the recommended minimum wage of Sh11,831 gazetted in July 2015 by then Acting Labour Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo.

A legal notice issued by Omamo also awarded domestic workers in major towns a 12 per cent salary increment.  

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“As much as the government has set a minimum wage for domestic workers, women domestic workers we interacted with said they earned an average of Sh4,800,” Muthuri said.

“The Labour Act spells out that working hours are eight hours but a majority of those we interact with said they worked for 13.7 hours on average. There’re some who even worked for up to 17 hours,” he added.

Martin Mubisi, a representative of Oxfam International, told Capital FM News that the organization was working together with the government to ratify the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 189 on decent work for domestic workers adopted on June 16, 2011 which he said will address the problem.

“Currently we are working with key stakeholder and the Labour ministry to ensure that this convention is ratified and enough awareness is created on minimum wage,” Mubisi said noting that the process was at an advanced stage.

The Wezesha Jamii initiative is a four-year project funded by the European Union being implemented in partnership with a number of non-state actors including Oxfam and Youth Alive Kenya.

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