International Women’s Day

Tanzania: Making markets safer for women traders

“I will never go back to the period when I feared attending my business.” Evah Kakobe, vendor at Mchikichini market, Illala district, Dar es Salaam

Date: Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Photo Gemma Wood
Photo: UN Trust Fund Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist/Gemma Wood 


Women working in Mchikichini market in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania used to face rampant violence and discrimination. Betty Mtewele, a vendor there since 2005, described what it was like:

Women were verbally abused, sexually assaulted, their rights were not recognized by male traders, and in most cases male traders did not settle their bills. Women did not know where they could access [services for] their violated rights and they lost hope.”

A 2009 survey by the Tanzanian NGO Equality for Growth shed light on the alarming levels of violence experienced by women market traders. The survey found that 40 per cent of women traders in Dar es Salaam markets surveyed had been sexually harassed, 32 per cent had been verbally abused and 24 per cent had experienced other forms of violence from male traders and customers.

Photo: Equality for Growth
Betty Mtewele, a market trader in Dar es Salaam, in her market stall which is now a safer place for women to conduct business. Photo: Equality for Growth

Women working in the informal sector – often the only opportunity for employment for many women in Tanzania – are disproportionately affected by violence. The informal and often unregulated nature of such working environments is additionally aggravated by the absence of mechanisms to report violence and protect women from harassment. In order to meet the needs of women who are often exposed to both violence and economic instability, Equality for Growth is implementing Give Payment, Not Abuse: Protecting Informal Women Traders in Dar es Salaam from Violence against Women, a project based in six markets in Dar es Salaam and funded by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund). The project aims to ensure that women market traders can work without fear of violence and are properly protected by law.

The achievements of the project, which began in 2015, are already transforming daily life for women traders by making the markets safer and enabling them to exercise freely their economic rights in a safe environment where they are free from violence. Forty women vendors have been trained to become legal community supporters, enabling them to raise awareness about violence against women, women’s rights and referral services for women who have experienced violence. Betty Mtewele, a market vendor who was trained to become a Legal Community Supporter, said:

Now women know where to access their rights within and outside the market… I am better off economically, I am more confident and well informed in market leadership and women’s rights.”

In 2016 alone, these paralegals and legal community supporters assisted 454 women to report cases in the markets. Evah Kakobe, another vendor at Mchikichini market, described the enormous impact this has had:

Through legal community supporters I received education on human rights and learned that I could actually fight gender-based violence. With the help of legal community supporters I took one of the perpetrators to the market leadership.”

All six markets have adopted and now implement new guidelines to end violence against women. The project created the guidelines and brought together community stakeholders – including the police, market officials and vendors – to agree to them. Betty Mtewele said:

 “With the development and the use of guidelines in the market, many perpetrators are fined. In [the] food vendors’ sector, women vendors are getting paid timely [sic] and without being sexually harassed as vendors know and exercise their rights.

In addition, nearly two in three women now know where to report violence and four in five say that violence has decreased in the markets, according to those recently surveyed by Equality for Growth. In total, over 1,600 market traders and visitors to the markets have participated in various initiatives to combat gender-based violence.

“This project not only supports women’s rights to live a life free of violence but also women’s economic empowerment. A safer market means more women can do business safely,” said Jane Magigita, Executive Director of Equality for Growth.

Gemma Wood, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist for the UN Trust Fund recently visited the project and expressed that, “a real difference has been made both to preventing violence, but also boosting economic and political opportunities for women in the market environment. There is a real opportunity for replication and scale up of the results to other markets in Tanzania.”

Equality for Growth strives to make markets safer for women working in the informal sector in Tanzania. The organization envisions an informal sector free of all forms of gender-based violence.

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