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Women activists against women sleeping in markets

A trader sleeps next to items to be sold at a market following a directive from President Yoweri Museveni that all vendors should sleep in markets for 42 days to curb the spread of the COVID-19, at Nakasero market in Kampala. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Women activists have asked the government to look beyond mosquito nets and provide women spending nights in markets with security and sanitary places to guarantee their safety.

On Friday last week, President Yoweri Museveni asked women vendors to sleep in the markets to reduce contact with family members as a measure to control the spread of COVID-19.

Speaking during a meeting on Thursday where testimonies of being robbed and failure to get wash facilities in the initial lockdown last year were shared, Primah Kwagala, the Executive Director of the Women’s Pro Bono Initiative asked the government to come in handy and fill the gaps that were experienced last year.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Health launched a campaign to distribute free bed nets to market vendors working in Nakasero, Owino, Nakawa and Kalerwe markets among others. The ministry revealed they would be providing 5,000 nets which tally with the numbers of people who they expect will be sleeping at their workplaces.

Kwagala, a lawyer who provides legal aid to women whose rights have been trampled on says the move by the government to give out nets is utter tokenism that should be not only be condemned but rejected.

She adds that healthcare managers ought to recognize the role of women in the pandemic, especially that they have provided foodstuffs and also keep the economy going.

Juliet Kushaba, a rights advocate working for NGO ArtVism noted that sleeping in workplaces has layers of challenges that were especially exposed in the previous lockdown.

“The last lockdown ended with more cases of teenage pregnancies as girls were left on their own with predator relatives while their mothers were away in the market”.

Another lawyer, Sunshine Fionah Komusana who has been compiling testimonies of women and how they survived in the previous lockdown says that a vendor shared her experience of sleeping in the market and said there’s no security and yet they have to bath from the dark corners. This Komusana says is systematic violence.

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