Walking through downtown in Kampala city can be so flabbergasting. The areas of Owino market, Kikuubo, Old Taxi Park, Luuwum and Ben Kiwanuka streets are parts of the city always crowded and busy. I went down town over the weekend and I was filled with amazement upon seeing how women were especially engaged in doing business. It is a common scene hawking, drumming, clapping, whistling, calling buyers for merchandise and services.Women are engaged in all kinds of petty trade such as food vending, sweeping the streets, garbage collection, sales, taxi drivers, taxi drivers, security guards, hair salon vending, baby sitters, bar maids, among others.
On Luwuum street above the old taxi park, a number of young women line up in strategic points of buildings such as Majestic Plaza in the crowded verandahs of the street, softly call on passerby women for a hair do in Luganda, the native language in Kampala. “Nyabo, jangu osibe enviri, ebei enungi” meaning, madam come I plait your hair at a good price”. Some women act as ‘middlemen’ for saloon owners. Many women have recently informally trained in hair dressing but have no capital to begin a saloon; therefore plaiting is the easiest because it only requires a comb to work on a client. On average plaiting one person ‘pencil’ hair style goes for about 20,000= (8 US $) which takes 4 hours.
On a typical busy day in Kampala, women are seen with piles of plates of food delivered to clients in their work places in shops, stalls etc at a commission fee from the restaurant business owners. A plate of a posho, matooke, rice and beef goes for 5000= (2 US$). I asked Nakato, a woman food vendor how much she makes in a day; this is what she had to say. “I don’t make much money, I make 0.25 cents per plate and on average, I make between 5000= (2 US$) to 10000= (4 US$) per day.
A common scene in the city is places manned by female security guards (Banks, shops, petrol stations etc). More and more women are today being recruited into the security agencies in Uganda. I chatted with Stella Akwii (not real name) a woman security guard in Silver Springs Hotel, she told me that it’s a tough job since it involves working at night. Stella had dropped out of school and come to Kampala in search for a job. She was initially recruited into the Police force to manage the 2012 elections, after the elections, it was disbanded, she had no other way of survival, she was told of a security job with the Silver Springs Hotel, which she did. The other challenge is that the salary is very small to meet her basic demands. On average the security firms in Uganda pays 120,000= (50 US $) per month. I have also seen women engaged in garbage collection, drainage and street cleaning in the city. Garbage trucks and garbage skips, have women working there.
Occupations that used to be dominated by men in Uganda are steadily picking the interest of women too. Many women are getting engaged in fending for their family day to day needs. This is moving away from the traditional system where the head of the household (husband) fended for the family. What is called; putting the food on the dining table? In the traditional system, women where restricted to the homestead/household doing work within the homestead and farm.
A presentation by the Ms Deborah Kaddu-Serwadda, Executive Director iCon on 2012International Women’s day festival, that as women get more and more economically empowered, the husbands have tended to relegate their responsibilities in families to the wives. So this is a new challenge coming with the economic empowerment of women. Men now ‘understand’ women empowerment as more responsibility for the women. It is important that this is addressed to avoid more domestic violence resultant from women empowerment.