Ruth Izang is the women leader of Jos-Jarawa Tomatoes Market by Cele Bridge, in Jos, Plateau State. In this interview, she explained that market women are very hard-working and committed to their trade.
Apart from tomatoes, what other kind of products are you selling in this market?
Although I sell tomatoes, pepper and onions, others sell vegetables like spinach, bitter leaf, cucumbers, pawpaw, water melon, and general food items. Though we sell as retailers, but we also sell in large quantities. We work hand in hand with the farmers, and we are grateful to God for giving them the strength to farm and supply the products for us sell.
Is it only women who sell in the market?
Most of the traders are women, but few men also sell in the market. What the men mostly sell is meat, cow and goat meat. Some of them also have tailoring shops and they sew clothes for us. They know how to sew women’s clothes very well and we patronize them. Others come from far away to also patronize them because they are very good at their work. They have made things easier for us because we don’t have to leave our market and go far away in search of a tailor who will sew clothes for us. On the part of the meat sellers they too are assisting us a lot, because after we finish our market for the day, we just buy their meat to join other food stuffs and take home to prepare meal. This has saved us the stress of having to go elsewhere in search of meat to buy after a hectic day at the market. And they sell the meat to us at good prices.
How do you purchase your products for sale?
Actually, the farmers bring my products to me in the market. And it is after I finish selling everything that I pay them their money, after removing my profit. If I am ordering tomatoes for instance, I order up to 20 baskets and I finish selling them in good time. But there are times when I order less so that they don’t get spoilt due to its challenging preservative nature. So, it’s all about timing and calculation. And whenever the season for tomatoes is over, I will begin to concentrate on other vegetables, and I still make good sale.
Since the inception of the market what have you achieved?
We have gained a lot of benefits and have been able to achieve a lot of things. Through this market, we have recorded tremendous growth in our lives of which some of us would not have been able to achieve. We have also been able to save money to do other things through daily contributions and monthly contributions. For the daily contribution you can put in any amount and collect your money at the end of the month, while the collectors/keepers who records your daily keep in a card removes one day contribution from your money for his/her services before handing the rest over to you. Some women have built houses and purchased land from their savings.
Talking about women buying lands and building houses, do you mean that they are the ones doing that for their husbands?
Not really. Some of them live in their husbands’ houses and the one they built from their trade is put on rent. Some others are widows and after they finish building their house they will pack in with their children. In all the gesture is not to take over the men’s responsibility but to complement their efforts and to assist the family generally.
How is the association encouraging more people to go into the business?
We are advising women who are not into apprenticeship or businesses of any kind to wake up because the era of redundancy is over. It is high time for women to engage themselves in something. They should stand up and try to stabilize their family with their contribution because building a family is a collective responsibility today. Let women come out and key into businesses, even ours, in order to help their husbands and children. The young and unmarried girls, they can make themselves useful and even before marriage they will make good earnings and be independent.
Do you experience any form of intimidation in the market?
We are not facing any harassment or intimidation. All of us in the market here are like brothers and sisters and irrespective of our different tribes and Christian/Muslims beliefs, we are still united and the unity has been in place for a long time now. Luckily too, all the crises that Plateau State experience hardly get to the market. Whenever we sense any danger coming, what we normally do is to mobilize security personnel so that it will not affect our market.
What challenges are the women facing in the market?
Our major challenge is that we need government’s assistance. They should help us reconstruct our culverts and drainages. The culverts are necessary to enable the cars bringing our products to enter the market with ease. The one in use is currently in bad shape. We were the ones who contributed money to construct it in 2014, after the government declined our request to assist. But they can help us reconstruct it. For the drainage, if it is constructed it will help in conveying water into the stream. Apart from collecting revenue, there is nothing else they are doing for us. Besides, governments all over are upgrading markets to ultramodern standard. They can equally do so with our market. It is also imperative for them to come to the market and interface with us in order to know some of the other challenges we are facing.