Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre opens women-only Saturday street market

Summer Fair women-vendor-only market. (Photo/Alice Kendall)
Summer Fair women-vendor-only market. (Photo/Alice Kendall)

Last week marked the opening of the Downtown Eastside women-only market, running every Saturday on Columbia street. The Summer Fair is run by the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre (DEWC), and was created to address the issue of men’s violence against women in the existing street markets.

The need for a women-only vending space is just one outcome of the City of Vancouver’s decision, in November of 2015, to evacuate the community market on Hastings street between Carrall and Columbia, rezoning it in several less visible and high-traffic areas of the Downtown Eastside. Community advocates explain that women were being abused in the three new locations where the city allows street vending.

“Long story short, women were not being treated very well.” Alice Kendall, Executive Director of the DEWC, told 24 hours.

“There was some kind of abuse and exploitation of women that were participating. Women are not very well-represented in those spaces because of a lack of an appropriate kind of model or safety and security for women. The issues of violence against women in this community is tolerated to such a degree that people kind of see it as an expectation.”

The plan for the women-only market has been in the works since late February of 2016 when a community member from the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council brought it to the attention of Superintendent Michelle Davies at a Police Board meeting.

“The whole situation with street vendors has been a challenging one in recent years, but we’re looking at solutions for all different types of vendors and making sure there are safe spaces in the community,” Mayor Robertson said in response.

Last Saturday’s event featured between 20 and 30 female street vendors, selling handcrafted goods and used items. Male vendors are not permitted to use the space, but people of all genders are encouraged to visit as customers.

Jess Martin

Jess Martin is a public relations professional, an aspiring writer, and an assistant editor at Feminist Current. She prefers to write about feminist topics, disability, or environmental issues, but could be persuaded to broaden her horizons in exchange for payment and/or food. In her spare time Jess can be found knitting, gardening, or lying in the fetal position, mulling over political theory that no one in their right mind cares about.