In the wake of shrinking formal sector employment, increasing poverty and declining standards of living, the cross border trade has offered a ray of hope for women in Chitungwiza. Cross-border trade has impacted greatly on the lives of many households of Chitungwiza. Women are the most dominant actors in this sector, outnumbering their male counterparts, a Chitownews survey has revealed.
The survey, which was conducted last week by Chitownews visiting cross-border traders at their market stalls at Makoni, Huruyadzo, Chigovanyika and other local shopping centers, revealed that women of different ages and social statuses ranging from the married, divorced and single mothers are involved in the trade selling products such as clothes, shoes, bags, jewellery and household consumables.
Young women graduating from different institutions in Zimbabwe are also involved in cross-border trade as they are unable to get formal employment. The results of the survey shows that women who are in the cross-border trade spend several days travelling to countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Tan`zania and Zambia to buy goods for resale.
Tracy Chimunda (21) a single mother of one girl who rents a table at Makoni shopping center said “Informal cross-border trade is my only means of survival”. “What keeps me in the trade is the need to earn income to keep her family alive and dressed and I am able to pay rentals and school fees for my child from the sales,” said Tracy.
Talent Chivanga (27), a married woman who is a cross-border trader, rents a table at Zengeza 2 shopping center. Talent said “I travel to and from South Africa where I buy shoes for resale”. “I have been in this trade for over five years now and I use the money I obtain from the business to pay rentals and to buy food for my family since my husband is unemployed”, continued Talent.
The survey, also revealed that some of the women engaged in the trade have managed to buy assets such as residential stands, cars and household properties. “At times we make good profits in the business and I bought a car with the money from my business last year” said Tsitsi (23) a single woman who sales clothes at Makoni shopping center.
Women in the cross-border trade face different challenges in their line of work. Most of the women interviewed by Chitownews revealed that due to low profit margins and falling disposable incomes, cross-border traders are forced to use cheaper transport alternatives like Haulage trucks and private cars, exposing them to rape, sexual abuse and robbery.
Commenting on these challenges, Tsitsi said “most young women face the challenge of sexual abuse by bus drivers, conductors and truck drivers along the way”. She said, “The drivers offer the young women free and cheap transport in exchange for sex and the women sometimes agree because they would like to cut costs”
She continued; “The problem comes when the woman turns down the sex-for-transport proposal”. She emphasised, “Most men feel that whenever they help a woman, she is duty-bound to reciprocate with sexual favours”. She went on to narrate shocking tales of women dumped by the roadside, assaulted, raped for refusing drivers sexual advances along the way.
Brenda Makamba(24) said “the trade is very risky and sometimes life threatening”. She said “as informal cross-border traders we use public transport such as buses and mini-buses and some of our colleagues in the cross-border trade have lost their lives due to fatal accidents”.
The survey, reveals that despite the risks and hardships associated with cross-border trading, women still consider cross-border trade as their hope for survival because of economic hardships and high unemployment rates currently prevailing in Zimbabwe.