MAIMANA (Pajhwok): Women vendors in northern Faryab province complain their businesses have dramatically slumped with the outbreak of the coronavirus and at times they return home without selling a single item. They urged on the authorities to solve their problems on priority.
Dozens of poor women in Maimana sell a variety of handicrafts and second-hand goods on streets and roads in a courageous effort to eke out a living for their families.
In interviews with Pajhwok Afghan News, the women vendors said they had been facing a lot of problems after the outbreak of the pandemic. With sales nose-diving, to the lowest level they have encountered yet, some of the women vendors say they have to sleep hungry some nights.
They say a large number of women — each supporting five to 10 family members — meet their day-to-day needs through peddling handicrafts on streets. The desperate women fear they and the people dependent on them would starve to death if the second wave of Covid-19 returns and the city is locked down.
Laila, a resident of Maimana, is the only breadwinner for her seven-member family. She takes used goods to the market twice a week to earn a living for her family.
Before the outbreak of Covid-19, she used to earn up to 200 afghanis a day. With her income, Laila would purchase potatoes, bread and sugar. After the outbreak of the pandemic, however, she has been unable to sell anything at all.
“When the lockdown was lifted, penniless people are still selling used goods instead of buying them,” she says, blaming the government for paying little attention to the needy. Instead, she claims, help is provided to people’s representatives and well-off village individuals.
Shah Bibi, another vendor from the 5th police district, says her husband has been sick. She is the only breadwinner for her a family of 10 individuals.
She buys second-hand items from people’s homes and sells them in the market in Maimana. She had good income before the coronavirus spread. But her business has considerably suffered now that most people have lost their purchasing power.
Speaking to Pajhwok at 12 noon, she broke into tears due to business stagnation, poverty and misery. “I have sold nothing since morning. I was hungry and another woman gave me a piece of bread, I am wondering what to do tonight? If I go to someone’s house, they will not give me anything before I work for them. And they would not let me stay.”
Like other peddlers, the elderly woman complained of the government’s indifference and neglect, alleging assistance was being provided to powerful individuals and their relatives and family members on the list of the deserving people.
If the government transparently delivers assistance, she will not need to sell used things on the streets in hot and cold weather, according to her.
Humaira, who sells second-hand clothes, says a vast majority of women vendors were widows, having lost their husbands to conflict. She says each widow has two or three children and they try their level best to earn a living through halal businesses.
If they had husbands or supporters, these women would never sell things on streets and roads, she remarked, urging the government to provide a suitable place for the poor women to protect them from snow and rain in the winter.
Aziza Joya, the gender head, acknowledged the problems and challenges of the women vendors and confirmed the outbreak of Covid-19 had had a negative impact on their work and lives.
She acknowledged the situation of these women had extremely worsened due to the spread of the coronavirus and the ensuing lockdown. They are unable to sell their products or buy the raw material.
Joya said the women peddlers did not have a suitable market and work on streets in excruciating conditions. Although the municipality has built a market for them, the official was unaware why these women were not allowed to do their businesses there.
She said the gender office did not have any funds to support the women in need. Still, she distributed masks and soaps, purchased with her personal money, to the female vendors. She promised taking up the issue with high-ranking officials.
“This Investigative Report was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Pajhwok and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.”