We, the women market vendors of Arua City represented through cooperatives and associations for a long time, have been invisible despite the challenges we face within and outside the markets. Even though women constitute a greater percentage of market vendors with an estimate of over 70% being at the forefront of informal cross border trade in Africa, we as women are often denied the right to participate in leadership positions due to varied reasons from societal perceptions to unfavorable policies. Women market vendors are often left out of decision-making spaces.
For instance, during the relocation of the market, we were not consulted solely because we are women. Our colleagues living with disabilities were totally ignored in the whole process.
Women market vendors head households, supporting their families, in addition to contributing to the city and country’s development and growth.
For these reasons, the women market vendors through their umbrella cooperatives developed a Women Market Vendors’ Manifesto to expose the continued injustice and discrimination they face within the informal economy. The Women Market Vendors’ Manifesto (2021-2026) which represents voices of more than 400 Women Market Vendors’ Cooperatives from the different markets of Onzivu, Muni, Dadamu, Amani, Driwala, Mvara, Ediofe/Yitia, and Awindiri in Arua city was developed in December 2020 with support from the Strategic Initiative for women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA NETWORK).
As women market vendors, we intend on utilizing the Manifesto to have clear messages and demands about the critical issues of concern affecting the women in the informal economy and what women demand from our leaders, policy makers and other stakeholders.
As women market vendors, we have identified several critical issues that affect us in our day-to-day work.
1: Health and sanitation:
Across all the eight markets of Lobida, Awindiri, Muni Site, Mvaradri, Dadamu, Driwala and Yitia, poor sanitary facilities and waste management are recurring challenges, yet the daily market dues are intended at covering the service. This puts our health and wellbeing at great risk.
2: Economic Agency and Justice:
Women market vendors face social, economic, and ideological barriers to full and equal participation in the economy. Weparticipate largely in the informal sector, which is characterized by low wages, poor working conditions, long working hours, inadequate social protection among others. Moreover, we are affected by high or double taxation/market dues, lack of access to finance and unfavorable terms of credit from informal money lenders. This has meant that we are exposed to risks of being subjected to harassment, demands for bribes, street violence and similar forms of abuse.
3: Ending Violence Against Women (VAW) in markets:
Violence Against Women has been on the rise despite the presence of laws and policies to protect survivors; physical, sexual, psychological, and economic violence has thrived in the markets due to inadequate legislations and lack of investigative practice.
4: Inclusive, Equitable and Quality opportunities for education and training:
Women market vendors typically have little formal education and live-in households with limited income, yet we arebreadwinners for their families. We are usually manipulated since the majority have little to no education which limits our capacity to understand the existing trade regulations.
5: Leadership and Good Governance:
Women dominate markets yet we have little say in the management of these markets. The segregation of women market vendors from the market politics has caused wider exclusion from economic life in the market setting. Our participation in decision making processes will enable us to assert our right to engage in income-generating economic activities.
Women have continuously been sidelined in peacebuilding and conflict resolution processes. This contradicts the UNSecurity Council Resolution 1325 which emphasizes the importance of comprehensive inclusion and involvement of women in peace and security for post-conflict societies.
6: Safe transport
Transport is particularly important for us, women market vendors, who commute to markets on a regular basis. Safe public transport and lighting can have a significant positive impact on our daily lives – particularly those of us who work outside our homes late at night. We have witnessed an increasing number of accidents due to over-speeding on markets that are along the roads. For instance, Mvara (has two markets on both sides of the road) and Awindiri Market is along the highway – these roads put vendors’ lives at risk since they do not have protective barriers.
Against the above-mentioned circumstances, we, as a coalition of women market vendors of Arua City demand that:
The Government should:
- Increase access to financial services for women market vendors to meaningfully participate in, and benefit from the monetary economy. Incentives need to be created to enable women market vendors to save regularly.
- Enable women to be part of market planning, management, and governance, and make recommendations for policymakers to engage women market vendors more meaningfully in the national economy because we want to speak for ourselves
- Provide protection facilities and services closer to the markets to enable the market women access to justice and legal mechanisms at the market premises. Government should equip the facilities with trained personnel on gender-responsive service delivery. Government should also assign some female police officers to these locations to make the women feel safe to report cases of violence.
- Improve the existing infrastructure to cater for women market vendors living with disabilities.
- Ratify gender policies like ILO Convention C190 to ensure that women in the informal sector are protected from sexual violence and harassment within their workplaces.
We encourage women rights and civil society organizations to:
- Support and make proposals to the relevant authorities to ensure existing market by-laws are gender sensitive
- Support local advocacy with the women market vendors and utilize their platforms to speak about the issues and demands of women in the informal economy.
- Establish gender desks in market spaces for easy access, safety, and confidentiality.
- Facilitate the translation of trade regulations and policies from English language to local languages for accessibility purposes.
- Create platforms and space for women market vendors to take up leadership positions at all levels.