Market Women: The Backbone of the Liberian Economy

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Despite the challenges they face on a daily basis, women have continued to play a vital role in every sector of the country. Women have contributed in different ways in relation to development and helping to reduce the high rate of poverty in the country.

This week in our Women & Family section we focus on market women and some of the challenges they face in gathering their produce for the market.

The Liberian Daily Observer’s W&F desk visited the Rally Time Market this week and spoke to women about the market and how they survive on the income generated by their businesses.

Amazingly, most of these women are breadwinners for their respective families. We could not begin to tell how these little businesses have transformed and touched the lives of hundreds of women around the nation.

The sales of bitter ball, pepper, plantain, palm oil, and other food items have become a major source of income for many families across Liberia.

Upon entering, we met 49-year-old Estelle Randall, a mother of 4 and a resident of the Paynesville Area, she highlighted some of the situations they face while getting their goods from their suppliers.

She also told us how much her small business has helped her and contributed to her grandchildren’s education. Mrs. Randall sells plantain, potatoes, and eddoes.

She explained that there are two kinds of sellers in the market — the women registered under the Liberian Marketing Association, and those who are not.

She said the women who sell outside the market on the floor are not registered with the LMA.

Explaining how the women acquire their goods, Mrs. Randall said the goods come from the Republic of Guinea and from rural parts of Liberia.

‘We take our goods from Nimba County and other rural parts of Liberia; we even go as far as Guinea. As a result, we are charged according to the amount of produce we buy.

“The goods from Liberia are sold at a higher price here than the ones from Guinea, because the goods from across the country were planted with natural fertilizer as opposed to the chemically treated kind. That is why what we grow here in Liberia is considered preferable for the market’, she explained.

She said transporting their goods to the market for sales remain a serious problem for them.

“For many years now, transportation has been a major problem because of the large amount of money we spend on transportation of our goods. We should normally be charged per bag, but instead we are charged more than the goods we carry. After spending that kind of money on transportation, your daily income is very low and cannot cater to your needs,” Mrs. Randall explained.

“At times we spend 60LD per bag. In fact, sometimes our goods decay before they are finished,” she stated.

After Mrs. Randall explained all the challenges they are faced with in the market, she was proud to say that her business has been a source of help to her and her children.

“Although we suffer before we earn the little that we do, it has helped us a lot. I have been a market woman for almost 15 years now. Through this, I was able to educate my four children and my grandchildren as well,” she said proudly.

“This is the only business I am doing, but I find this more interesting than any other form of job,” she said smiling.

We also found out that many of these preferred to remain selling in the market no matter what level of education they acquired.

35-year-old Munah Bonah is a mother of one and a resident of the Logan Town Area. She is also the Assistant Spokesperson for the Oil Sellers Association in the Rally Time Market.

She deals in Vegetable and Palm Oil. She told W&F about her own experiences, specifically what it has been like having selling in the market as her only means of survival.

“Our oil is being produced right here in Liberia — pecifically from Bassa, Nimba, Lofa, Mary Land, and Bomi Counties,” she explained.

“We spend a lot on getting the oil from the 'Go-buy-chop' field," Ms. Bonah furthered. "A tin of oil is sold for LD$2,000, which is very expensive; now that exchange rate keeps increasing, this makes it more difficult to handle.

“I am not married, so I take my business seriously. This business is how I feed, clothe, and send my son to school. I use the same money to look after my aging parents. This business is all I have and I must make sure it doesn’t fail,” she declared.

"I am a high school graduate, and I know that the government can’t give jobs to everybody. Even if I had the opportunity to attend a University, I would study business and management because it has become a part of my life, I would not leave it for anything in the world,” Ms. Bonah proclaimed.

It was amazing how passionately these women talked about their love of being in the market.

These women play a major role in the Liberian economy, and they are reducing poverty one way or the other.

What would Liberia be if all the women insisted on working in offices and being in politics? Where and how would we buy our food? 

Today we celebrate market women, the backbone of the Liberian economy.

As a way of encouraging Liberian Market Women, the Liberian Observer’s Women & Family Page would like to feature at least two market women who are willing to share their experiences with us every time this column is printed.

Watch out for more stories on how petit marketing has helped many women and their families get ahead.

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