Women traders in Zanzibar decry over Covid-19 impacts

24Jun 2020
By Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Women traders in Zanzibar decry over Covid-19 impacts

​​​​​​​THE gendered impact of Covid-19 continues to play out in African countries and around the globe, with acute effects on women, who are the main caretaker in most families.

Covid-19 hasn’t spared women entrepreneurs in Zanzibar who are currently counting loss in their businesses as there are no more buyers of their merchandizes.

The most affected ones are women who are engaging in making and selling handmade crafts to tourists.

Mwanaisha Hashim Abdallah of Vikokotoni, Zanzibar said in an interview that the virus has immensely affected their business as most of them have ended up accumulating losses due to low price of the products.

She said that as the number of tourists declined drastically, the price of their products such as handbags are currently sold at 10,000/- compared to the previous 30,000/-.

“We were doing so well in the business, but after the Covid-19 pandemic, things are no longer the same, our income has been affected, our business focused on the tourist market,” said Hidaya Ali Rajab, one of the women traders from Cheju village.

According to her, the market has changed and they are now selling the handbags to normal people and they are forced to sell them at a cheap price.

 “Our major market centre was Stone town; this is the place where most of the tourists prefer to visit. I was earning 200,000/- as my monthly income due to the trade but I cannot get that amount now due to the situation, the number of guests and tourists has dropped,” she said. 

In Zanzibar, large number of women works in the informal sector as entrepreneurs running small and medium enterprises.

Women in the Indian Ocean archipelago often depend on public spaces and social interactions, which are now restricted to curtail the pandemic.

Asha Makame is another entrepreneur, who said: “We’re producing a lot of handicraft products designed in a very natural way to attract tourists to buy them.”

 “After the government resumed all activities to continue after Coronavirus, we expect things will become normal and our economy will improve. I am also preparing to increase production of the handbags because I’m sure tourists will also start flowing in the island,” he said.

Maulid Suleiman, director of the Zanzibar Youth Forum urged the government to think on supporting the entrepreneurs with capital and loans.

“Most of the entrepreneurs, especially youth have lost their capitals due to Coronavirus outbreak, it is better to think on how to help them improve their businesses,” Suleiman added.

Nairat Abdallah Ali, Women Economic Empowerment officer from the Tanzania Media Women Association (Tamwa-Zanzibar) also hinted on the note that Covid-19 has affected economic activities especially in the tourism sector.

“Majority of small-scale entrepreneurs in the tourism sector are currently undergoing hardship situations; those who are producing natural  handbags are one who suffer the most as they depend mainly on tourists to sell their products,” he said.

She said that Zanzibaris do not prefer buying the handbags as they don’t see their worthiness but tourists love them a lot due to their uniqueness.

At international level, it is estimated that 740 million women work in the informal sector while women aged 25 to 34 years are 25 percent more likely than men to live in extreme poverty.

A United Nations Policy Brief on the Impact of the covid-19 on women warned of different impacts on economic and productive lives of women and men. This is attributed to the fact that across the globe, women earn less, save less, hold less secure jobs and are more likely to be employed in the informal sector.

“As women take on greater care demands at home, their jobs will also be disproportionately affected by cuts and lay-offs. Such impacts risk rolling back the already fragile gains made in female labor force participation,” reads part of the Policy Brief.