Owoeye Joshua 1 year ago
@Slymjosh Creat... 12 min read Write a comment #creative-writing

Our Noisy Market Women

According to internal statistics published in the year 2019 it was found out that sixty five percent of Nigeria's GDP comes from small scale business and market traders, who have been stereotypically tagged "noisy market women". Since time immemorial the market and market women have been an integral part of the country's economy and have contributed to the society at large. Just like the 2019 statistics is a testament to their contribution and with many more unrecognized achievement this "low class people" in the Nigeria social ladder are still unappreciated why they continue to hear the brunt of the tag" noisy, lazy, illiterate market women".

"Stop making noise; we are not in the market" "Why are you shouting like the market woman" "You talk too much like the market woman." These are all among the common phrases stereotypically attached to the "Market woman." For many years, members of the society who are not among the so-called "Market women" have a particular commonly shared view about this group of market women- they are talkative, noise makers, gossipers, mini- hooligans, and everything associated with jobless women.

Jobless, unskillful, illiterates, and laziness are also among another certain type of stereotypes tag channeled to the 'Market woman.' The general belief is that they are a lazy set of people with little or no education, no training, or income skills who have decided to take to the business of trading or 'selling market' as it is popularly known.

Be it the renowned ladipo market in Lagos, Bodija market in Ibadan, or Onitsha market in Anambra. One common thing to note and that can't be denied Is that most of the biggest and most famous markets in Nigeria and Africa as a whole are populated by vibrant woman sellers or traders, and an example is that of Mum Ade.

Mum Ade is one of the traders in the renowned Ladipo market whose trade aspect involves the selling of locally and fresh soup ingredients and condiments, such as fresh tomato, pepper, vegetables, stock fish, and shrimps, amongst others. Her morning alarm is the "early morning call for prayers" from the heart of the muezzin situated on the top of the central mosque; she stretches and rubs her palms for some minutes before going through the early round of prayer with her three children, after which she quickly makes the preparation for another busy market day. Today as promised, she would be taking her youngest son Ade who is on summer break with his two elder brothers. She reminds Ade of his constant sluggishness; if he truly wishes to come with her like he had been pestering, then he'd to be fast. Mum Ade knew she'd get the crowd of other market women, distant office workers, and local travelers to beat for a seat in the yellow paint and black striped bus commonly known as "Danfo."

As the bus comes to a halt at the front gate of the market, Mum Ade, as well as Ade with other Ladipo market-bound traders, jumps out in a hurried fashion. She quickly brings out three hundred from her "black nylon purse" to pay for her trip; the money, although a quarter of her daily earnings was becoming unbearable, they'd laid a series of complaints to the head of the motor park drivers to reduce the bus fee for traders, it had only resulted in negotiations after negotiations never reaching a compromise nor solution. With Ade by her side, she trudges along the dusty path that leads to the inside of the market with her head loaded with a basket and arm enclosing the big empty sack of rice while still adjusting her wrapper, which is stuck to one side of her waist like the white nylon of fufu every now and then. With a sunshine smile, she exchanged greetings with some of her colleagues and friends who were also traders; sometimes, she would stop to elongate the greeting to ask about their welfare and exchange quick gossip, just like the one "iya bekewure the fish seller" brought to her attention now. Of course, one can't deny gossip, noise, and drama; they were the trinity, just like the body, soul, and spirit that made up the market. For them, it brought energy and liveliness to their stressful lifestyle; they were like sweet distractions from the daily troubles of being a market woman. Mum Ade walked into her stall or simply said her position, which had three tables with two large umbrellas at the side; she laid her basket on the floor and stuffed the sack into it. Her next routine was to say her "morning market prayer" to the creator of the earth, blessing the market day, asking for better sales, and prevent troublesome buyers like "omo warri" the food seller, from locating her stall and after the completion of her prayers which ends by the dual "Amin" of her and Ade, She begins her next agenda which is an arrangement of her goods and cleaning of her stalls, just same time her fellow friends and traders begin theirs.

The market starts slowly in the morning, but by noon it was already a boom, booming with lots of different customers "the confused one, the bargainer, the stingy ones known as (akangas)," and In all this, the market woman has to stay on her toes making sure sales came in because every minutes and seconds counted, it was never over until it was dusk and time to close their stalls.

If selling or trading at the market only went like this, then the stereotyped tag of "noisy, lazy, illiterate women" was right. But no, the average market woman day's trading wasn't that easy. It wasn't just about calling out to potential customers and selling goods to them; it involved many more, and they come in different aspects, first is the presentation and branding. Like Mum Ade, the market woman had to always package their goods to a certain taste, a certain arrangement, and in a fashionable manner that was appealing to customers. She knew where the tomatoes were supposed to be; the vegetables took a different section, and like others, all in different sections in an orderly and attractive manner.

Her creativity didn't end there; she also had to position and arrange the stall so that it stood unique amongst the numerous ones present in the market. One thing to note is that competition is a key factor, and thus they are encouraged to take on the attribute and skill of consistency which is a key factor. Buyers knew the sellers who were always available, and not just available, but they had the best and freshest goods; with this, they knew where they were headed when they were in need of particular goods or products. This for sure had always aided the market women who knew that's it's her next action was to build a good seller-customer relationship with them, and thus having and developing a certain level of communication skills was imperative. The seller or market woman knew when her favorite buyer was present; she had to ask about her well-being, family, work, and personal life. Their questions though unnecessary, drew them closer to their buyer and made them feel more comfortable. If by chance a favorite customer was seen outside the four zones of the market, there was always the instinct rule which says they had to exchange pleasantries with them and wish them well. And aside from the presentation, communication, and work- consistent skills they had. The market woman also always had a knack for high-level creativity; it was a very important ability they had to develop through experience and observation; she knew when she had to apply those catchy or trendy words that would draw the attention of customers, it also didn't escape her knowledge that she had to be in touch and current with the latest slangs or sing in town, they were times when she had to go out of her way to imitate popular jokes or skit for the amusement of her costumers while they bargain for prices.

Even with all this, the market woman still provided more value and services in mostly overlooked areas such as the warehousing of goods; they also serve as middlemen that Are wholesalers or retail traders in the chain of distribution. To sum up all this, the "market woman" is not just an ordinary trader but a skilled sole proprietorship with skillful trading knowledge in the art of buying and selling.

But just like the irony of those unsung heroes, one area or area that the so-called "noisy market women" have not been acknowledged is their contribution to the political and economic aspect of the nation. In the aspect of the economy, it is a fact that they contribute a vast amount to internally generated revenues, they provide the link between manufacturers and farmers and their consumers, and they also aid the manufacturers and consumers in cutting down the amount meant for transportation and distribution of goods, but all this can't be compared to the whooping profit they generate as revenues to the officials and government. According to particular research, statistics gathered some few years back, the traders -"noisy market women" along with other small scale business which makes up for internal accounts provides sixty-five percent of Nigeria's GDP, to buttress this fact in another statistics published in early 2019 it attributes fifty percent of small scale and self-employment of women to the area of trading. While in the political aspect, history is a testament to the fact that the market women have been an important force for change, especially down memory lane to the ABA women riots of 1929. A protest turned into riots against the British imposed taxes. Another significant and well-themed protest is the Lagos women's market protest in 2018 against groping activities channeled to them as well as the protest against unfair rental in Edo 2016.

One great woman worthy of mention is the first leader and president of the then newly formed Lagos Market Women Association, Chief Mrs. Alimotu pelewura, whose action and support in the year 1920 encouraged the market women and led a protest against direct taxation of the women by the colonial government. The protest achieved great results, and no doubt, she received a commendation for her bravery. In the mid-1930s, Chief Mrs. Alimotu and other market women blocked the authorities from physically relocating the Ereko market to the Olu Wole area of Lagos, which led to her detention and those of others present at the protest. This and many more are the achievements of the "noisy market women" ever since the eighteenth century and many others too that have little or no documentation. So when next you want to use the tag "noisy, gossiper, illiterate," it shouldn't be or be referred to the market women while hustling is touching lives and contributing to the nation every day.

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