Written and Contributed by
Social Design Collaborative
New Delhi, India
In a Covid-19 world, there is a need for us to rethink public spaces, especially those associated with multiple informal livelihoods such as weekly markets. To address it, SEWA, WIEGO, Janpahal, City Sabha, IIHS and Social Design Collaborative – came together as part of the civic campaign – Main Bhi Dilli.
What is the project about?
Delhi is unique for its weekly markets which are a part of its rural and cultural legacy, continuing well into the contemporary city. They pop up in public places and streets which are multi-layered spaces that change through the day and the week. Delhi has 272 officially recognized weekly markets across its 17 zones which are set up on different days of the week.
In a Covid-19 world, there is a need for us to rethink public spaces, especially those associated with multiple informal livelihoods such as weekly markets. In 2020, weekly markets across India had to shut down due to lockdown restrictions during the first wave of Covid-19. As the unlockdown process gradually began in Delhi over July and August, the weekly markets had still not opened, hard hitting the livelihoods of thousands of street vendors. That is when a collaborative initiative made up of hawker unions, NGOs working on rights of street vendors and research & design organisations – SEWA, WIEGO, Janpahal, City Sabha, IIHS and Social Design Collaborative – came together as part of the civic campaign Main Bhi Dilli.
The collective piloted simple and low-cost design strategies to help street vendors self-organise while following social distancing norms for the safety of their customers and themselves. Through trials at two weekly markets – Mahila Market and Dilshad Garden – effective strategies for demarcating spaces, creating effective layouts, spreading civic awareness on Covid-19 and improving the vending experience were tried and tested. These were then shared through Whatsapp forwards and posters.
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What is the impact?
After several weekly trials by the Delhi municipalities, the weekly markets were finally declared open by the end of August.
The piloting process also led to a collaboration with WIEGO – Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing – for the development of manuals and posters for street vendors to help provide guidelines on Covid responsive public health and safety, design strategies for social distancing in natural markets and information on rights of Indian street vendors. The manuals in Hindi and English have been shared with market associations across Indian cities, placing key information on rights of street vendors within their hands.
Images by Social Design Collaborative | © all rights reserved
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About Social Design Collaborative:
Social Design Collaborative is a community driven design and art practice that works through cross-disciplinary collaborations. The team engages with under-represented communities in Indian cities who are typically left out of urban planning processes. Working with farmers, street vendors, waste pickers, home based workers and domestic workers, the team uses the medium of design to help make public policy accessible. The team has also been supporting self-organized communities in informal settlements through collective building of schools, anganwadis and community spaces.