In continuation of our feature on “Market Women in the Spotlight”, our Women and Family Desk took a tour of Buchanan Grand Bassa County over the weekend and visited several markets. Our reporter spoke to market women, who equally face challenges like their counterparts in Monrovia.
Although some views were contrary to what many people normally say about market women wanting to work in their trade forever, many still expressed their satisfaction over being able to make meaningful contributions to their respective families.
I was able to visit the Zogar Market located on Tubman Street, the Corn Farm Market where the welcome gate was located, the General Market and the Monrovia Junction Market located at the entrance of the City.
Since the W&F page started focusing on Market Women, I have realized that one of the main challenges market women face is transporting their goods from one point to another. Because of dilemma, market women spend more than they gain monthly.
Imagine a market woman buying a bag of bitter kola at a cost of L$1,600 and transporting it from Lofa County. She is then forced to pay a total of nearly L$3,000 for round-trip transportation.
At this point, she has already used L$4,600 in the process.
After she returns home she sells the kola nuts L$10 or 20 for one. At times she may not be able to earn L$500 a week. It is possible that before that bag is finished, a good portion of the kola has gotten rotten, thus becoming useless to the market and consumers.
Another example is a market woman who buys a bag of fresh pepper for L$2,000 and sells it for L$5 per pile. How much is she expected to gain before the entire bag is finished or before a bulk of that pepper gets rotten?
During my tour, I was fortunate to meet with men doing business in the markets also. Some were there to help their wives, while others were there to make livelihoods for their families, claiming that the market does “not belong to women alone.”
Our first encounter was with 28 year old Miss Olivia Janjay, a seller of fresh fish in the Zogar Market.
Miss Janjay is a committed mother of two who has been a business woman for 2 years. She revealed to us that she is a high school dropout.
Ms. Janjay said she gets her fish from the beach in Fanti Town; Buchanan’s only fishing community.
“Most times we are able to get fish, but in those cases when we are not able to get it (fish) we do not sell that day.
You buy the fish according to the quantity you want and sell according to the quantity you have. Overall, it is based on how you buy the fish on the beach.
It’s stressful. We leave our houses as early as 6:30am just to make sure we are on the beach in time to get the best fish. After we leave the beach we go straight to the market.
We are careful to avoid the fish sleeping overnight before for it gets spoilt the next day; that means we will lose the money we spent on buying the fish in the first place.
My business is very important to me. This is how I feed my kids and parents so it’s dear to my heart. Old age has caught up with my parents. And I have to take care of them. I hope to continue my business because I love it so much,” she declared.
We also spoke to 39 year old Marmonde Browne, a mother of three and a resident of the Tarbah community.
Madame Browne sells pig foot, chicken feet, spare ribs and other frozen food at the Corn Farm Community market located at the former welcome gate.
She has been a business woman for 6 years now.
Madam Browne said with her kind of business, transportation and storage is a problem.
She said transportation and storage consumed a lot of her profits over the years.
“Transporting my pig foot barrels from Monrovia to here is costly. We buy the Barrels for over L$3,000 and pay L$200 for transportation. We also have to keep it in cold storage, which cost us almost L$1,000 a month.
We cannot hike up the prices because we bought these things expensive. If we do, the people will not buy it.
So we just have to maintain the normal price in other to sell these items. When my market stays longer than I expect I have to sell it cheaper than the usual price just so that I can make a profit from those items.
I am not satisfied with what I am doing. But since I am not fit for any other business, I have to cope with the one I have.
Since I lost my husband, I have managed to feed my children from this business. I sell day and night, rain or shine just to keep them going. So I am asking the Government of Liberia to create more job opportunities for unskilled/ uneducated people,” she pleaded.
56 year old Josephine Gaye, a resident of the Fair Ground Community and a trader in its general market sells potato greens.
She said selling greens is only good business during the Rainy Season.
“My business has helped me, but not very much. I am saying this because we only have good greens to sell during the rains when they grow fresh.
During the dry season, people hardly buy greens because they think they are not fresh.
I have my garden in my yard so I use the entire dry season to plant then I sell during the raining season.
What is helps me is that my husband is a security guard and our combined incomes help make a meaningful contribution to the family.
I love what I am doing and have no intention of leaving my business for anything else,” she concluded.
Lastly, we spoke to Alphanso Tarpeh at the Monrovia Junction Market.
He is 32 years old and sells Rice.
Alphanso said he believes the market was not made for women alone.
“I love to be among women in the market because I love their company. I have learned what it means to maintain a business. It allows me to send my child to school.
I buy a bag of Rice for US$40.00 per bag and sell it for L$20 or L$25 per cup of rice.
We make a profit but not immediately because people do not buy the rice all at once.
Transportation is not much of a problem. I don’t consider the L$30 or L$40 I pay on motor bike a problem. What I am not satisfied with is the increasing price of rice. I buy the rice one bag at a time because of the price; it’s too high to buy two bags. This is why we are asking the Government to please see what they can do about the price of Rice in this Country,” he said.