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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

The hassling lives of Dar es Salaam market women traders

17th August 2012
  Theirs is a busy life of hassling from hand to mouth as each day they must wake at dawn so that they can go to ferry their merchandise ready to sell in markets around the Dar es Salaam outskirts
Women entrepreneurs sell vegetables around Kariakoo market in Dar es Salaam.

Most women in the country wake early to carry out their household chores and to prepare breakfast for the young ones before they can go to hassle. Amina Ally, a lady who sells food stuff at Buguruni market is forced to walk for one hour from her home in Vingunguti to the market in Buguruni and she admits that there is a lot of competition in the market as many others sell similar food stuff to what she does.

“I wish I could change to another type of business but unfortunately I don’t have enough capital to do so,” laments Amina.

Amina is not alone in this country, as they are several other women in informal employment who have been forced to work more with little rest for survival.

These women face several challenges one being  lack of capital to establish business and not to mention of  finding business space   as most of the markets are nearly full to the brim leaving little room for new traders to enter in.

A survey conducted in 2009 by the Equality for Growth (EfG) on female market traders in Dar es Salaam indicated that most women were engaged in food vending, selling cloths, vegetables and spices among other things with food vending popularly known as ‘Mama Lishe ’ leading supreme among the business.

According to the survey women have found themselves in such a business not because they are not good in other business but because they lack the capital and resources to do so, and unfortunately, these activities are not necessarily that profitable as much as one would have expected.

Sadly, most of these women must struggle as hard as they can due to some being single mothers, divorced or widowed and they have no one to cater for their needs save for working as hard as they can for survival.  Worse still, most of these women use tools and equipment which are old, and of poor quality attributed mainly by lack of resources to buy new ones.

A small minority of women surveyed indicate that some are forced to take their children to their working places  and at least five out of six women surveyed indicated that one of them took her children to work due to lack of a relative to take care of them.

Sadly most of the women interviewed felt that the market place was no place for children due to the environment around, as at times the little ones are pushed around by customers and not to mention of lack of a playing ground and resting place among other things.

Perhaps it is due to this reasons and many others that Equality for Growth has embarked into a mission  to empower informal women workers in the country through legal and human rights education, advocacy and capacity building in a bid to eradicate poverty.

Their mission is to see a market place free from gender barriers where informal women workers at all levels can operate freely on an equal footing with men, and be free from all forms of exploitation. 
Among the things the organization advocates for is the improvement of physical environment such as the building and maintaining clean toilets and facilities in market place while at the same time facilitating a process that will enable women in markets organize themselves  and form grassroots movement to increase their visibility and amplify their voices.

So much has been said and done  but for sure, let there be a system that will see informal women operate smoothly, unlike the current trend where at times there are chased up and down by militia forces whenever found cooking or selling their food items around town.

It is not late; something can still be done to rescue women in informal employment from further frustrations.   [email protected]

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