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Ban by Juba city escalates challenges businesswomen face in South Sudan

Amduma Mustafa Ibrahim (L) and Christina Ayaia. Their businesses have been affected by ban by Juba City Council

By Simon Deng

Women traders in South Sudan capital, hit by economic problems chose to reduce cost by choosing locations on roadsides to sell their commodities, but the idea is not being bought by the authorities in Juba who have gone about running them down.

Along several streets and roads in the capital and the outskirts, women lined displaying their groceries, cereals, and nonfood items, simply to make ends meet, in the wake of an economic declined that has eroded spending power of the majority.

But Juba City Council officials have swooped in, angering the women along the way.

Widowed Amduma Mustafa Ibrahim, who sells vegetables along the roadside in Suk Libya in Munuki is lamenting the loss of her meagre livelihood in the ban.

The mother of 8 said the vegetables were the only means of survival for her family.

It’s through the little profit she gets from the business that Amduma puts food on the table.

“Since 2016 when my husband died, I am selling vegetables on the roadside,” she said in the aftermath of the demolition of her business stall on Monday.

“For the last three days, I have been without work, the government removed our stalls I have 8 children, how will they feed?” Amduma lamented.

Her dilemma is not isolated. Thousands of women have been affected by the decision by Juba City Council in recent days.

Across all outskirts of Juba, demolitions are ongoing and these poor struggling women are bearing the brunt.

In Gudele 1, a similar exercise was undertaken where business premises were destroyed with owners losing millions of the South Sudanese Pounds.

Robert Pitia, the Chairperson for Central Equatoria State Chamber of Commerce said the eviction of the women from the roadside, as well as imposing hefty fines on those who violate the order is stifling the entrepreneurial spirit of South Sudanese.

“We condemn the activities of City Council and to make it worse the penalties imposed on those evicted are unfair and harsh,” Pitia said in an interview.

“Once they are imposed, some of the traders will quit,” he said.

“We need to consider some of these women because some of them are the sole breadwinners of their families.”

With big markets for groceries and other foodstuffs on several outskirts of Juba, there is no need for sellers spawning the roadside, Juba City Mayor Kalisto Lado, told Juba Echo by phone.

“The roads and roadsides are meant for cars and pedestrians and fixing of water pipes,” he said.

“This issue of extending veranda to 7 meters is not allowed and the issue of putting food commodities along the road is also not allowed,” Lado said.

“In every market there is a place decided for selling vegetables and fruits. These are very sensitive foods that should not be exposed to direct sunlight, to dust, these will even get contaminated and cause people a lot of illness,” he said.

“That is the purpose of the public order that was carried out.”

Equally affected is Christina Ayaia, who sells doughnuts for a living.

When Juba City Council officials swooped to chase businesses away, they carried along her stall and now has nowhere to display her commodities.

“I am appealing to the City Council, we want order but we do not want South Sudanese women to pay the price of unplanned evictions,” Ayaia said.

Ayaia is married to a police officer who has to wait for months to get a meagre salary in arrears, and the task of facilitating him with daily transport lies on her.

Even feeding the family and catering for children’s needs rely on her.

“My roadside business enables me to feed my kids and pay their school fees,” she said.

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