It's a Man's Market

By | 09:34 1 comment
All of the markets Equality for Growth (EfG) works in are male dominated but some of them are harder for women to work in than others. Ferry Market is one of them.

Ferry Market is one of the few local markets you'll find in a guidebook. It's the fish market for Dar es Salaam. On one side of the market fisherman dock their boats and sell their catch to wholesalers who then auction everything off. On the other side (pictured above), fish are cleaned and sold to customers. This picture was taken in the late afternoon, which is means this is a view of the market when it's quiet.

 Fish is good money here in Dar, and Ferry is where everyone buys from. Given that buying fish requires a large amount of capital to begin with and because fishing is a "male" activity, almost everything to do with fish at the market is also male dominated.

Now, that doesn't mean women don't work here. A lot of women are hired as labourers to clean and cut fish. They don't however own the business, which means they don't get a say in market affairs.

If you wander away from the fish selling area, you suddenly find yourself  in the only female dominated zone of Ferry. This is the food vendors area. Between all the men working in the market and the government offices located near by, these women's kitchens are very busy.

Other than the fact that their aren't many women here, you might ask what makes Ferry market so hard to work in. It isn't just the numbers. In fact, there are other markets with lower representation of women that aren't as bad or difficult to get involved in. At Ferry it's the attitudes about women working in a male-dominated industry. The market is aggressive with lots of fights breaking out all over the place. Men tend to throw their weight around and refuse to pay women for their work. Verbal abuse and harassment are every day issues, though most women are hesitant to report it.

So how do you address these issues? Well, helping the market leaders understand gender issues is a big part of EfG's strategy. It isn't an easy sell. The first time I went to visit the market I had an hour long conversation with the Market Secretary as he tried to explain to me why they couldn't have more than 2 women representatives on their council because women don't show up for meetings and don't contribute. This wasn't the first time EfG staff has heard these stories from the market leaders.

It is hard to help the men see what appears self-evident- women do double work with responsibilities at home, they are discouraged or even forbidden by family from socializing with men and their concerns may not be the same as male traders. While these talks can seem frustrating and repetitive, I think they are just as important as the work done to empower women. Men are half of the gender equation at the end of the day.

After several long debates and discussions, the market leaders agreed to help women stand for election on the market committees and the goal line was shifted to have 6 out of 18 representatives be women. Attitudes change slowly, but inch by inch its possible to gain ground. And I for one believe in celebrating every inched gained. If the election can go as planned it will triple women's representation. And all it took was being willing to engage in an ongoing dialogue around the issues and challenges. It can be the simplest things that make all the difference.

1 comment: Leave Your Comments

  1. keep these great posts coming! your analysis and insight is really inspiring.