As President Yoweri Museveni’s directives on curbing the spread of Covid-19 continue to bite, many women who have to spend nights at their market stalls have to choose between having meals and sanitation facilities in order to navigate around the ever rising cost of living.
Much as her home at Wandegeya is about 2Kms from Kalerwe market where she sells avocado and food spices, Annet Amorut, has not had an opportunity to return home for more than a week owing to a rule by the market authorities that requires vendors to choose between staying at home or spending the entire 42-day lockdown period in the market.
The single mother of three, including a two-year-old child, chose to stay even as normally, she would take the 15-minute walk from home to work.
The decision is coming at a cost, the said, because she had to suspend some of her meals to be able to afford to stay in the market and send some money back home to her neighbour who watches over the children. She now has to pay an additional Shs 1,000 or more each day to use the shower facilities.
To afford this, Amorut stopped taking dinner because the lockdown also affected her avocado sales.
Amina Nalweyiso who is no stranger to sleeping in markets having spent three months at Freedom market the last lockdown says the women endure a lot from sleeping in the cold to treating vaginal infections as a result of the filth in the washrooms and finding their homes in tatters when they finally go back.
The market leadership has no control over the charges, said Muhammad Kisanja, adding that the wash facilities were established by private individuals who took advantage of the government’s inability to construct toilets. He says he already received complaints from vendors that prices for showering had been increased.
With the government listing market vendors as one of the beneficiaries of the relief money that is about to be sent to the needy, Kisanja wants government to give market vendors a unique attention, putting into consideration such things as soap if they are to be protected from illnesses related to poor hygiene.
So far, all government has done is the distribution free mosquito nets to market vendors. Kisanja says his market, with more than ninety men and women, received only received thirty nets when Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja visited last Friday.
However, human rights activists frown upon the whole idea of having people sleep at their places of work. Primah Kwagala the executive director, Women pro-bono initiative, an NGO that gives women legal aid says authorities didn’t pay attention to needs such as security and wash facilities. She says the government needed to give women extra affirmative support.
Kwagala says, even in the lockdown, women are the main providers of food and need better conditions to operate which government should pay attention to.
The government estimates about 4,500 people are sleeping in markets.