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Phephanathi (Be Safe With Us): Helping street traders to improve women and girl's safety in urban transport nodes.

In South Africa low-income residential areas are far from the economic hub of the city. Residents have to travel long distance between home and work. Transportation nodes are an important point of connection to enhance the safety of women and girls. In order to create a secure environment for the women and girls who work in or pass through Warwick Junction, a transport hub in Durban, South Africa, we will facilitate a community oriented safety process combined with infrastructural interventions informed by Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles. As the petty traders who operate in the area represent a dense and static population within transport hubs, this project will focus on this population to leverage change.

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Provide a short description of your idea

Our idea is a combination of a participatory institutional framework for improving urban infrastructure for greater safety and practical interventions for both municipal officials and the community to work around. It tackles the problem of women and girl's insecurity in an urban transport hub due to lack of adequate services and infrastructure by focusing on the stable trader population in the area to leverage change. It addresses the problem by a) providing traders with skills in advocacy and negotiation, b) setting up a crime mapping partnership with the city's Metro Police services, and c) developing a pilot zone within the transport hub where innovative 'safer' infrastructure can be prototyped, tested and used as a basis for negotiation for wider implementation in the area.

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This idea is built around the trader population in an urban transport hub, in the belief that this will have a knock-on effect for the entire community who utilise the area. We believe that this is the logical approach because the trader population is likely to be both dense and relatively stable, as opposed to commuters who are a transitory population. It is also in the interests of the trader population to promote a safer environment around them because it attracts and sustains customers. Traders don’t want crime in their area, they are a permanent population and can and should be used as part of a safety strategy which benefits both themselves and customers and commuters.

Through a project running in 2014, WIEGO and its partner organization Asiye eTafuleni (AeT), have developed a prototype for an institutional structure in which the concerns of such urban environments can be better addressed in South Africa. This is called the Phephanthi Project which means “Be Safe With Us” in isiZulu. Through Phephanathi, WIEGO and AeT, in collaboration with a number of trader organizations, are in the process of building a participatory “dialogue and negotiation platform” which traders will use to negotiate, discuss and draw on the resources of particular municipal departments, as well as experts from outside the local authority, to assist in improving the condition of their workplaces. This platform is supported by a network of community run “risk-management committees” made up of traders who have been trained in various risk management techniques, and who act as the link between the platform and the traders on the ground.

The logic of this particular design works as follows: changing regulations which discriminate against traders and which ultimately serve to undermine their safety and security, as well as that of their customers, is a long and difficult process. The first step towards altering regulations is to build better relationships between traders and the institutions which control their places of work. In order for relationships to improve, an arena for dialogue needs to be created where traders and local government officials can come together to discuss concrete issues which they can both work to solve. The arena that we are in the process of creating is the Phephanathi dialogue platform.

An institutional structure such as this can only work if there are practical activities which can act as a focus for both the traders and those who sit on the dialogue platform. To date, the focus has been on fire safety and the development of evacuation and assembly points for a particular market area in which this prototype is being tested. The safety of women and girls agenda will be embedded within the larger project. Building upon what is already known about the community’s priorities in terms of safety and security, there would be two specific aspects to this:
  1. Organizational Empowerment for Greater Safety: The Phephanathi Project is built on a foundation of grassroots risk management committees who have already been elected by their respective trader organizations, and have been through first aid and fire safety training. The majority of the risk management committees are made up of women, although in some markets men predominate. An ongoing element of this project would be to both further equip the market risk management committees to negotiate with the municipality over safety issues, and to bring into the open some of the deep seated gender tensions within the market which also contribute to women’s insecurity. Practical measures would involve:
    1. A capacity building course for all risk management committee members on advocacy and negotiation skills, which would later be put to use in Activity 3 (below).
    2. An ongoing process based on the idea of “gender dialogues” which would provide a facilitated safe environment for men and women to bring up and discuss their concerns around gender in the marketplace, with a long term goal of enhancing women’s voice in market decision making processes.
  2. Partnering with the City: One immediate area in which traders could partner with the city is through the Metro Police’s “crime hotspot” GIS mapping initiative. We know that this is a priority concern for the police, as they have already approached traders in Warwick Junction about participating in this initiative. Partnering with the police force on a crime-specific map would have the advantage of not only creating the map itself, but would also aid in the process of strengthening the relationship between traders and the police. It would also allow for a greater police presence in the area, because police are assigned to specific areas depending on the crime statistics from the previous week.
  3. Safer Infrastructure: Drawing on an existing methodology known as Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED), this would involve the development and implementation of a “safer spaces” campaign aimed particularly at female traders and commuters. The campaign would involve a number of steps:
    1. Female traders will carry out a participatory safety audit of the market areas. These traders would then attend a facilitated workshop where their experiences could be more fully explored and specific infrastructural interventions could be developed.
    2. Alongside urban designers, traders would help to design and develop an idea which we currently call “Transform 250m2.”  This would involve designating 250m2 of market space and targeting it for safer infrastructure development. Although the infrastructure would ultimately depend on the traders, it is likely that the space would have a specifically designed “safer toilet,” good lighting, signage regarding safety in the market, as well as a security desk staffed by a trained trader where crime could be reported. Trader organizations would seek the approval of the municipality for the implementation of this infrastructure within the 250m2 limits.
    3. Once the infrastructure is in place, the traders using the area would, with the assistance of WIEGO and AeT, monitor the usage of the infrastructure as well the incidence of crime in the area. Interviews would also be carried out over a period of time to assess people’s perceptions of the area.
    4. The data derived from this exercise would be used to advocate, through the Phephanathi Platform, for the extension of this infrastructure to the rest of the market area.
    5. The original 250m2 space would be maintained and used as a prototype” for other communities in Durban to emulate.
We think this idea will work for the following reasons:
  1. The specific interventions are all designed to be embedded within an institutional framework. This not only draws each individual intervention into a logical whole, but will also ensure sustainability.
  2. The prototype for the institutional framework is already being developed and tested within a specific community of traders, who have actively participated in its design and implementation.
  3. We know from our own experiences on the ground that the needs the project addresses are high priorities for the target community, and the target community will be centrally involved in all of the activities.
  4. We know that the eThekwini Municipality (Durban) will be receptive to the idea of improved safety for women and girls, as it is a subject that is foremost on the national agenda of local authorities in South Africa. The municipality has also recently openly declared its intention to enhance its development efforts in the Warwick Junction precinct.
  5. It builds on an existing, proven methodology of CPTED, which through a regeneration project in Warwick Junction during the mid-1990s was shown to decrease levels of crime in the area. See Working in Warwick for further information:
  6. It builds on the fact that dense populations of traders can act as a catalyst for the safety of the wider community.
  7. AeT’s longstanding experience and knowledge of Warwick Junction is a prior and invaluable project investment that will substantially reduce implementation risk.

Questions that we have for the Amplify community:
How can digital technology support the processes we describe above?
We know that traders have cell phones, but generally they do not own smart phones. Are there crowd mapping options which can be used with basic cell phones?
Are there existing designs out there for safer toilets (i.e. toilets that are less likely to make women vulnerable to assault)?


Explain your idea in one sentence.

To enhance urban safety for women and girls through community initiated processes and environmental design in a strategically located South African public transport node, all with replicable intent.

What is the need you are trying to solve?

The Apartheid Group Areas Act has left an ongoing spatial legacy in urban areas in South Africa. Low-income residential areas are located far away from the economic hub of the city meaning that residents have to travel long distance between home and work. Transportation nodes therefore act as important points of connection within the South African city. These nodes share a number of common characteristics: they are densely populated, they are often informal marketplaces as well as transport hubs, there is a lack of adequate infrastructure including public conveniences for both commuters and the people who work in the area, and they may be hotspots for crime. They are also places where large numbers of women and girls pass through on their way to and from work and school, and where women work as petty traders. As such, these nodes can act as an important focal point for improving the overall safety and welfare of a significant women and girls. This can work in two ways. Firstly by improving the actual conditions of the transport node itself, women and girls commuting through the area and women working in the area are better protected. Secondly, as it is generally residents of low income areas that pass through these nodes, these places can be used to conscientise people to the ways in which urban design and infrastructure can improve safety so that they may start to demand similar improvements in their own residential areas. Within the transport node itself, improvements in women and girl’s safety could take a number of different forms. However, underlying many of the issues identified above is the lack of an appropriate institutional framework to promote safety and security in such spaces. It is municipalities who generally control the urban spaces in which such transport hubs are situated, but these areas tend to be neglected: firstly, because they are areas frequented by those of lower socio-economic status, and secondly because municipalities, on the whole in South Africa, tend not to be supportive of the traders who operate in public space. Although trading is a primary economic activity for large numbers of women, it is not an occupation that is necessarily valued by local authorities. In fact, urban regulations often serve to threaten the safety and security of traders through discriminatory by-laws, allowing for the confiscation of goods by municipal officials, and promoting a general acceptance of harassment of traders by such officials. This is not an institutional context in which the specific needs outlined above are likely to be addressed. What is needed is a more supportive institutional framework in which specific interventions to promote the safety and security of both commuters and traders, particularly women and girls, can be embedded. WIEGO’s work has shown that this is best done as a simultaneous process, i.e. that a more supportive institutional framework can be built through a process-based focus on very specific practical interventions. Two interrelated priority needs that have been identified through WIEGO’s work on the ground in South Africa is i) the need to deal with high levels of crime and ii) the need for improvements in basic infrastructure, in particular better lighting, more coherent use of public spaces, clearly demarcated ‘safe routes’ and basic sanitation services such as toilets. In a country like South Africa, with one of the highest rape and homicide rates in the world, crime is an obvious threat to women and girl’s safety. Lack of appropriate infrastructure and the poor design of urban space can contribute to this. Dark corners, confined walkways, inadequate lighting and large, poorly designed public toilet facilities can all contribute to levels of criminal activity in an area. Insecurity can also be a psychological issue – people tend to feel less safe in areas which are poorly maintained. It has been shown that relatively simple improvements in basic infrastructure can lead to an improved perception of safety amongst users of urban spaces.

Who will benefit from this idea and how would you monitor its success?

We expect that both traders and commuters would benefit from this idea in terms of their improved safety and security within Warwick Junction. We also expect other low-income communities in and round Durban to benefit, as we will ensure that information about the Transform 250m2 model is widely disseminated. We will specifically target organized groups from such communities to visit the Warwick Junction site so that it might act as a model for further community mobilisation around women’s safety in urban areas. Success could be monitored in a number of ways. Two areas would be of particular concern to us: 1. Implementation of practical interventions: a. Crime hotspots in Warwick Junction are mapped and signed. There is an increase in the incidence of crime reporting and successful prosecutions through the local police force. b. There is an agreement with the municipality around the implementation of transform 250m.2 c. Transform 250m2 is implemented. d. There is an agreement with the municipality for the wider implementation of safer infrastructure in Warwick Junction. 2. Evidence that the institutional framework developed has led to an improved relationship between traders and municipal/local state institutions. a. This can be measured through baseline and endline perception surveys. b. Calls to replicate the institutional framework in other communities elsewhere in the City.

Who would be best equipped to implement this idea in the real world? You? Your organisation? Another organisation or entity?

WIEGO and AeT are the best equipped to implement this idea. Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) is a global action-research-policy network which serves to improve the status of women, particularly poorer women, working in the informal economy. WIEGO is made up of three constituencies: researchers, development practitioners and grassroots organizations of the working poor. WIEGO has been running an Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) for Informal Workers project for the last 5 years, which has involved setting up dialogue platforms in both Ghana and South Africa. Asiye eTafuleni (AeT) located in Durban , South Africa is a not for profit organization led by individuals who have worked in a specific transport hub/informal market known as Warwick Junction for over 20 years. AeT ( focuses on providing urban design solutions for informal workers and brings with it a wealth of local knowledge about Warwick Junction.

Where should this idea be implemented?

The idea would ideally be implemented in the area in which the Phephanathi Project is already being implemented by WIEGO and AeT: Warwick Junction which is located in the inner city of Durban, South Africa. Warwick Junction is the primary transport node of the inner city, with approximately 460,000 commuters passing through the area per day. There is also a relatively stable population of 6000-8000 traders spread across nine markets, the majority of whom are women. The market traders in each of the nine markets are either organized into democratically elected ‘Street Committees,’ or into membership based organizations or associations of stallholders. Traders Against Crime is also active in the area.

How might you prototype this idea and test some of the assumptions behind it?

We have built prototyping into the processes of the project through the Tranform 250m2 idea which will allow us not only to collect data on the interventions, but will also allow us to refine the infrastructural interventions further before advocating for wider implementation across the markets. This type of prototyping is not necessarily quick, however. In order to get preliminary feedback on questions related to the infrastructural interventions, we would develop basic diagrams and talk the traders through these before asking for their feedback. Out of this process we would further refine the designs. We would also go through this process with municipal officials.

What might a day in the life of a community member interacting with your idea look like?

Nomsa is trader in Warwick Junction who sells lime balls, which are used by her customers as sun screen. She spends two weeks in a rural area outside of Durban mining the lime and packing into balls. She then comes to Warwick Junction to sell the lime, working and sleeping in the market until her goods are sold. The area where Nomsa works and sleeps is badly serviced. Toilets are located far away and are poorly maintained, there is no nearby water source. Nomsa and the other women feel insecure at night because of the vagrants and criminals who enter the space. It is impossible for them to visit the toilet at night. This has begun to change with the implementation of the Phephanathi Project. After a series of negotiations with the municipality, there is now a toilet located close to Nomsa's working and living area, and a well-lit safe route to the toilet has been mapped out. Nomsa and her fellow traders are now in the process of negotiating the provision of security personnel in the market at night, which will not only protect the women themselves, but will make their goods less vulnerable to theft. Her organization has benefitted from this process - knowing that they are able to negotiate successfully with the municipality has made them realise that strength lies in numbers. Bongi is a 16 year old schoolgirl. She lives with her grandmother in KwaMashu, a township outside Durban. Bongi's grandmother knows that she is bright and wants to send her to a good school, but none of these schools are in KwaMashu. This means that Bongi travels for close to an hour each way to get to her school in Durban's city centre. In order to get to school she has to pass through Warwick Junction, where she catches her connecting minibus taxi. One day Bongi decides to stay in town with some school friends a bit later than usual. By the time she gets to Warwick Junction the last connection home has gone. Bongi knows that Warwick Junction can be a dangerous area at night. Now she notices a sign which points her to a well lit safe route through the market. Walking along the safe route, she encounters a security guard. When she tells him her story, he takes her to the Lime Ball sellers who sleep in the market at night. They give her a blanket and tell her that she can remain in their area for the night. Its not the most comfortable situation, but at least Bongi knows that she is safe for the night.


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What a great initiative. Good luck with it.

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Thank you Helen!

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Great initiative, standing ovation. Enjoyed the graphical explanation of interventions. Well done. Viva Phephanathi, viva!

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