A focus on women
Importantly, The Big Issue South Africa has the highest proportion of female vendors of any of the magazines and newspapers that are members of the International Network of Street Papers (INSP). Our focus, in line with national and global imperatives around empowering women, is on ensuring that women have equal access to services and resources. Our gender advocacy work provides for continued child support in the form of crèche subsidisation (see below); equal opportunities within our developmental programme and within the context of women as a special-needs group; sensitivity training for staff regarding women’s fears, issues, particular needs and safety concerns; peer support groups; access to education around women’s health issues; along with The Big Issue’s specialised work skills and entrepreneurial skills development programme.
The Social Support Programme
The most important needs of marginalised adults are employment and dignity. It is the cornerstone of our philosophy, approach and strategy that while providing vendors with an immediate earning opportunity, we also provide pyscho-social support to vendors towards ensuring the best possible outcome at micro-entrepreneurial success. This is a core part of assisting vendors in moving from social marginalisation to achieving the dignity of independence. Earning an immediate and legitimate income through selling the magazine is seen as a first step towards developing a self-sustainable future.
We provide the following social services and support facilities:
Crèche programme (we are currently seeking financial support for this programme) a crèche programme for vendors with children, promoting involvement of women in the project. This means that more women can become Big Issue vendors while ensuring their children are being cared for in a safe environment.
Accommodation assistance: assistance for vendors where required to move off the street and into night shelters or independent accommodation.
Casework and counselling: professional social work services and counselling to vendors on a range of matters such as family support issues, accessing social grants, HIV/Aids and substance abuse counselling, child care, health care or interpersonal problems. Matters that cannot be dealt with in-house are referred to more specialist organisations.
Art & writing: Vendors are encouraged to express themselves on paper and canvas. The best results are published in the magazine and vendors are paid when their artwork is selected for publication.
Social activities: we organise events and outings for vendors, thereby actively promoting social inclusion of the poor. Vendors visit major attractions like Robben Island and Table Mountain, participate in public events like The Cape Times/FNB Big Walk, sport activities and promotions.
Vendor Training Programme
Workshops: our training sessions cover issues and skills areas such as motivation, life skills, sales, customer relations, product promotion, basic business skills, entrepreneurship and money management.
Further education & training: we also provide assistance and course placement to vendors who want education and training to realise longer-term career goals (generally outsourced to external providers).
Job Club: through our job club we assist vendors in seeking long-term employment, by offering support for CV development, job hunting, placement identification etc.
The Move-On Programme
Vendor success is measured initially through income earned, but ultimately through sales levels, training achieved, and – where desired – through vendor readiness to “move on” into the formal job market. Both case and group work methods are utilised in support of The Big Issue’s Move-On Programme and, though vendors are encouraged to move through the system at their own pace, The Big Issue has set a target of moving at least 20-25% of vendors in any stage of the Move-On Programme, to the next stage, during each annual cycle.