Illustration from Flickr/aheaven
The Big Issue is one of many Street Papers, independent newspapers or magazines that are sold on the streets of cities around the world by homeless and inadequately housed people. It is sold in several cities in the UK, with different editions in different places. In other countries the papers may have different names but the underlying idea is the same.
Homelessness is all too often ignored, overlooked, or misunderstood, even in developed countries. Over 100 million persons are homeless worldwide and over 1 billion in inadequate housing.
The person selling the paper buys it from the publisher at roughly half the price the public pays. The balance is kept by the vendor. There are now over 90 of these papers in 40 different countries in the International Network of Street Papers (INSP), nine of them in Africa.
The first ever in Malawi will be launched on 24 January 2009 with over 250 people selling copies every month. All vendors will complete training in business management skills and sign a code of conduct with strict rules which include no begging, no drinking, no swearing and no harassment of the public while selling the paper.
The project is being supported not only by the INSP, but also by the Scottish Government, and the Ubuntu Trading Company. The Ubuntu Trading Company produces a Fair Trade cola in the UK using sugar from a Fairtrade cooperative in Malawi.
The idea of the street paper is to encourage self-help and is a project run by Malawians for Malawians. It aims to give jobless, homeless, marginalized and socially excluded people employment and a voice in the media and raising issues that are overlooked in the mainstream press. It will be a source of information as well as having some articles about the feelings and experiences of the vendors themselves. The vendors will have a legitimate income and an alternative to begging.
Ethiopia, Kenya and Zambia already have schemes established. Nigeria will launch theirs in February, and projects are being discussed in Burundi and Zimbabwe. The illustration is the cover of the second issue in Ethiopia. The slogan at the bottom reads "Working not begging".