Lockdown in the Gambia: The Disadvantages of the Three-Week Curfew on Market Women
The pandemic has devastated the livelihoods of street vendors, disrupting their ability to do their jobs and leaving many in a fight for survival. On 6th July, the government announced a nationwide three-week Curfew with less than a 1000 cases registered at the time. The government announced that essential workers including food vendors would operate between the hours of 06:00 am to 02:00 pm while that of non-food traders should operate between the hours of 03:00 pm to 07:00 pm and on August 12 amended the timings of non-food traders to 06:00 am to 03:00 pm. However, there is concern that the high population of vendors would be threatened financially thereby affecting their daily lives.
Street vendors and market traders provide necessary goods and services, especially to those who must buy life’s necessities in very small quantities at affordable prices. Those who sell food—both fresh food and prepared food—are an essential part of urban supply chains. They embody food security for a wide swath of people who cannot afford modern supermarkets.
street vendors have always faced onerous regulations and punitive measures by authorities, including confiscation of goods and arrests — but now, the imposition of local and national lockdowns to contain the spread of COVID-19 is threatening not just the livelihoods but the very survival of informal vendors and their families in some places.
“As a hibiscus seller, it’s been very difficult for me during these times. Hibiscus has a short shelve life and the closure at 02:00 pm has been a huge challenge for me. We are really struggling, honestly,” says Binta Sanyang, a hibiscus vendor at the Serrekunda market.
She says business is not usually smooth for them which is why they always rely on the hours to make some small profit to take care of their families.
Aminata Jammeh, another food vendor at the market says “We are just managing. Sometimes we go a whole morning without sales, even before the pandemic, we can go till 12:00 pm without selling our stock, therefore we always rely on the afternoons to make sales. So if we have until then to make something to take back to our families and market closures start at 02:00 pm then how would we survive?”
“I came to the market and left home from work with D50 yesterday and do you know where I live?! Farato! I paid D20 for transportation leaving me with D30. With that I have to use it at home so how is that not challenging for anyone?”
She continued that although things have been very tight and challenging with business, she can’t stay at home because she depends on her business for her and her family’s survival.
“We are urging the government to at least extend the hours for us so that we can help our children. We need to hustle for our survival; if we don’t work then who will help us? No one!” she lamented.
The Gambia has so far registered a total of 1,623 confirmed cases with 1,269 active cases, 304 recovered and 5o deaths.