Sheila Kawamara the Executive Director of Eastern Africa Sun regional Initiative (EASSI) has asked the government to open up borders for business despite public fear of the COVID pandemic.
She argues that this offer Women Cross Border Traders the opportunity to conduct business to support their families.
EASSI is working together with Trademark East Africa (TMEA) and Global Affairs Canada is to Make Trade Work for Women at border points.
“So you will understand why I’m really infuriated at Government’s continued closure of the borders and restriction of public transport there. The excuse given is these places are rife with COVID19. Well, this may be true, but there is not much said about the border community infections. The Ministry of Health, however, updates/reports of positive tests of the truck drivers crossing the border.” Kawamara said.
She adds that at all the borders, the government has only been able to control and restrict movement at the main border crossing point. This leaves the small scale traders, and especially women to fall prey to extortionists, posing as security officers.
Who is benefiting?
“These COVID19 crooks are raping the women traders and stealing their merchandise. Some women have even died in the process,” She said.
Kawamara however says in Tororo town, women who would ordinarily have sold their goods during the day are trying to get people to buy their bananas, vegetables, etc at night. If the border with Kenya, at Malaba was open, this wouldn’t be the case. Should COVID19 be used to antagonize a particular class of people?
“I feel so helpless when the women EASSI has worked with for the last ten years facing such a challenge. These women were prospering, prior to the pandemic. These leaders are using the scare of COVID19 as a Non-Tariff Barrier to Trade across East Africa.” she noted.
“The President is being advised to keep the borders closed. The president is misinformed because our borders are in reality open. You just need to pay your way and out. When leaving Uganda for Kenya it costs the trader 500 shillings on the Uganda side. On the Kenyan side, it costs 20 shillings. Security officers or those posing as agents of the State are the ones charging people. So business and corruption flourishes and COVID19 continues to spread. At Elegu, the bribe is much higher, US dollars 100 to use the main border. The charge is at 100,000 shillings if you have to swim across River Oyama.” Kawamara added.
She advised the Ministry of Health to advise Ugandans on how to safeguard themselves from COVID19. To let the women, mothers, sisters, and daughters carry out their trade with dignity. One can get COVID19 and survive. But, how many mothers are we ready to sacrifice with this scare of the pandemic.
“These women trade for a living and the majority are the family heads. Many of us live and survive in Kampala. We shouldn’t however shun and neglect the lives of our brothers and sisters. These people are living marginally and barely surviving at the borders save women’s trade.”
What the civil society says;
Other civil society members namely Julie Nabwire, Sandra Nassali, and Norah Owaraga. Kenneth Lukwago, Anderson Pamela M, Alochi Kertho, and Ruth Wangeci. Allen Asiimwe, Joseph Tumushabe, Kamweya Tushabe Omunyaruguru, Monicah Amoding, and Amos Wekesa support the move to open up the borders for trade.
According to president Yoweri Museveni Press Secretary Don Wanyama the president will make final covid statement this Sunday on possible sectors to relax for the public to engage in normal business.
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