Mainstreaming gender in the COVID response: Market in Bairo de Ajuda
UNIOGBIS’s gender unit engaged the Women's Network for Peace and Security in the ECOWAS Space (REMPSECAO) to assist municipal authorities in the relocation of part of the old downtown women’s market to the less central district, to prevent crowding, and preparing the space according to good prevention and hygiene practices.
The project entails well-designed and distanced market stalls, and queuing place posts, as well as health education boxes at the entrance and exit of the market, run by women and youth volunteers and equipped with washing facilities and information materials.
Fabric protective masks produced by the association of disabled women will be provided. Notably, a women peacebuilders’ message, inviting all Guinean people to embrace dialogue to bring progress to the Country, will feature as the project trademark.
After some initial resistance from the Bideiras (women market sellers) to move from their usual space, the new market space in Bairro de Ajuda was opened on 19th April, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The market is divided in 3 sections: fish, meat and poultry; fruits and vegetables; and other home necessities such as oil, rice and cleaning products.
“We worked with the City Council of Bissau to organize the space, according to the rules and prevention measures: we drew circles on the floor where buyers can wait in line and keep their distance from the sellers, we worked on the general layout of the tables, which must be distant from one another.[…] We provided hygiene and sanitation products in the market, and hand washing buckets at the entrances and exits. We chose to have a single entrance and exit so that people do not crowd when entering and leaving,” said Elisa Pinto, President of REMPSECAO.
“Despite many challenges, we are committed to continue working in the markets, and expand to other similar ones in Bissau, which is the most affected area now. We have already identified 10 markets […] where we can intervene, and we are counting on the support not only of the authorities, but also of the partners and the United Nations”, she added.
In response to the third strategic indication by the Secretary -General in his COVID response message: build back better, this support to market decentralisation is also conceived as a first step for further rehabilitation and revamping of existing depleted local food markets, which will allow for people to be confined to their own neighbourhoods during the COVID crisis, but may function as better and safer alternatives as a post-crisis long lasting sustainable solution to improve women’s working conditions.