“We need to change society’s scrutiny and show that behind the blanket there are values, potential and a lot of dignity”. That’s the conclusion of Ndeye Fatou Mbaye, president of Diomcoop, a cooperative based around commerce and services which has been set up to cover the social, labour and relational needs of the city’s unauthorised street vendors.
The group promoting Diomcoop is made up of twelve men and three women from Barcelona’s sub-Saharan community. The fifteen members have different profiles, skills and expectations and will be offering services with communal roots, also helping towards the reception of people in vulnerable situations. The prevision of the cooperative itself is to expand its member-base to thirty.
Apart from offering social and labour alternatives, the cooperative will also open up a way for its members to regularise their legal status. The economic activity will help demonstrate they have put down roots, allowing access to a residency permit for those who haven’t yet got one. This in turn will help towards a degree of stability, facilitating labour insertion.
The cooperative will work at markets and fairs in the city, selling local fair trade craft products. The birth of the cooperative is the result of the municipal government’s efforts to find solutions to the complex situation of unauthorised street vending in Barcelona.
The name of the cooperative comes from the word djom, which in Wolof (one of the most widely spoken languages in Senegal and the Gambia), refers to the inner strength and determination to choose the path of good. The entity will operate with four main departments: communication, administration, logistics and social cohesion. Members of the cooperative have had specialist training for over six months to be able to carry out the tasks required by the business model.
“Getting out of invisibility”
Presenting the new cooperative, the president of the collective, Ndeye Fatou Mbaye, explained that the project was conceived in the summer of 2016 and that over 80 people applied during the initial selection stage. The president of Diomcoop highlighted the social aspect of the cooperative: “We want to position ourselves as active subjects in this society, with rights and duties, getting out of the situation of invisibility we were in and no longer being chased”.
The First Deputy Mayor, Gerardo Pisarello, considered the birth of Diomcoop as “an important step” in showing that besides police solutions “alternatives exist which are possible” to solve the problem of unlicensed street vending in the city.
The presentation act took place on Thursday, 23 March, at the Pati Llimona civic centre amid broad expectation, a festive and optimistic atmosphere and a strong public turnout. The presentation of the new cooperative made up of former illegal street vendors rounded off with a music concert in the courtyard at the centre.