Somaliland: The Secrets Of Women Of Tog Wajaale

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In this article, a few of the women traders of Tog Wajaale asked what their secret success of business is?

At the onset of COVID-19, the Government of Somaliland issued directives to manage the spread of the virus. On top of complete lockdowns, curfews, and closing of borders, public health measures were enforced in most public places. Although vital in curbing the spread of the virus, these measures significantly impacted on trade, particularly micro and small traders, and informal traders.

The Safe Trade Zone intervention under the safe trade emergency facility endeavored to support authorities to develop and implement a protocol that could be used in the establishment and management of a safe market- places.  In partnership with AMREF Health Africa, TMEA developed the Safe Trade Zone Protocol that was rolled out across selected markets in East Africa and the Horn of Africa. In Somaliland, the Tog Wajaale border was selected because of its strategic linkage to the Berbera corridor. It was anticipated that this intervention would allow traders business continuity; while giving the authorities confidence that traders and market users are safe and protected.

The Tog Wajaale Safe Trade Zone market is located on the border of Somaliland and Ethiopia. 92.8KM West of Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland. It is the main route that connects Somaliland and Ethiopia known as Berbera Corridor. It’s a sizable city with an estimated population of about 70,450 inhabitants.

In place of an old market lacking any infrastructure, a new market was built in an area of 1,800- meter square. It contains 196 stalls designed to provide for the social distancing of 2.5 meters and in accordance with the safe trade zone protocol. Other facilities in the market include a prayer room, breastfeeding center, cold chain room, kitchen, and three handwashing points.

The market is also furnished with 200 chairs for women traders and equipped with steel material for hanging meat, water harvesting tanks, and 150 milk containers, distributed in December 2021 for both markets at the border. For proper waste management, dustbins were provided as well as better internal and external drainage systems within and outside the market. On a good day, the market hosts at least 196 women, each occupying the 196 stalls that have been constructed.  Electricity and water provided are available.

We asked a few of the women traders of Tog Wajaale what their secret success of business is.

DEEQA HUSEIN CUMAR

Somaliland The Secrets Of Women Of Tog WajaaleShe’s the chairlady of meat. Or the meat chairlady. Her responsibility includes sanctioning all the meat that comes in the market  – camel meat, goat meat, beef. Deeqa has been selling meat for thirty years now when the market was nothing but a field, cleared of shrubs, muddy and unnavigable in the rain. She recalls the days they would sell under the hot sky, big houseflies buzzing around the meat like Blackhawk choppers. Deqa summarised the impact of COVID-19 to the women thus, “Everything became expensive or unavailable, for example, a liter of milk that previously cost 20 Birr (from around $0.42) now cost 50 Birr (around $1). Some women closed their shops.”

“The market has completely changed how we trade. We are making more now than the thirty years we have been here,” she says.  “This has translated directly into the quality of my life. I have managed to pay off my debts and left with enough to save.”

Her trade secret:

I allow customers to bargain. I also take time to sit down with them and discuss issues. I have learned that customers are happy when you treat them like they are the only customers you have.

FADUMO DAYIB JAMA

Vice-Chairlady Fruit and Vegetables

Somaliland The Secrets Of Women Of Tog WajaaleShe remembers the old market. How after the rain it would get so muddy women would slip and fall. How women would skip and hop over the mud in an olympian manner. How her fruits would sometimes roll off the makeshift table and onto the mud or dust. Nobody wants to buy muddy pawpaw or dusty guava or a bruised mango.  “Whereas I used to remain with stock at the end of the day, now I sell everything because we have more customers coming and it’s more organized and hygienic to navigate.”

Her trade secret:

It’s simple. Look around, ask yourself; what is not being sold here? Then sell that.

HINDA YUSUF

Somaliland The Secrets Of Women Of Tog WajaaleTen years ago, Hinda used to work in a cafe. A small noisy cafe that sells tea and snacks. One time she asked the guy who used to deliver milk every morning if there was any money in it. Leaning on his bicycle, the morning sun in his eyes, he said confidently, ‘yes, if you do it right.’ The rest is history. She’s now a milk trader, mostly camel milk. She gets the milk from Madar.  “Before the market was built I’d sell only eight 5-ltr jerry cans of milk a day. Now I sell 12.”

Her trade secret:

Customers need to know that you are reliable. If you say you are taking seven liters of milk at 6 pm, take seven liters of milk at 6 pm.”

SAYNAB ADAM

Somaliland The Secrets Of Women Of Tog WajaaleShe is a widowed mother of nine. She has sustained her home purely by selling fruits and vegetables for the past 15 years.  She also makes fruit juices, on the side. Fifteen years ago she bought land worth 30,000 birr and put up a tented traditional house. “Now that I am making considerably more from this market than I did before it, I’m saving 100 brr a day to build my dream stone-house.”

Her trade secret:

Give customers credit facilities. It basically says, I know what you are going through, and I trust you to pay me next time. Also, join Hagbad. (A Hagbad is a group of people who collect money on a daily or monthly basis and lend to each other at a fixed rate. The interest earned is shared amongst group members.)

HALIMO AHMED

Somaliland The Secrets Of Women Of Tog WajaaleShe has sold fruits and vegetables for ten years now. She separated from her husband and feeds, houses, and dresses her seven children from her business. Her eldest daughter, Isra who is seventeen years old, helps her around the stall. Her life as a trader, she says, has gotten better over time. “What makes me happy is when I’m able to feed my children and now, more than ever, I’m secure knowing that business is flowing well enough for that to happen.”

Her trade secret:

There is no secret other than to believe in Allah. I sell what Allah provides.

By: Ahmed J. Yassin

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