Women Rebuild their Business as Construction of Waheen Market Continues
Africa Markets

Women Rebuild their Business as Construction of Waheen Market Continues

Women whose businesses were destroyed in the Waheen Market in the Somaliland capital Hargeisa on April 1 are slowly picking up as construction of the expansive market continues.

Property worth US Dollars 2 million and some 12,000 jobs were believed to have been lost, according to the Joint Report of the Effects of the Waheen Market Fire issued by the Somaliland administration and the UN Interagency Mission on 10th May 2022.

Most of those affected were women who ran small businesses in the market.

Among them was 36 year old Nimo Abdillahi Muhumed who spent almost two decades building up her small business selling vegetables, clothing, perfumes and cosmetics.

Her stock was worth $25,000 when the fire destroyed her business. Records of loans she had obtained from lending institutions, as well as customer dealings, were also destroyed.

Rebuilding her business from a new site, located about a kilometre from the ruins of the Waheen Market, has not been easy with her usual clientele dispersed.

“It’s hard to find all my customers as soon as I would like. It will take time. But we are working hard, and we will not give up,” says the 36-year-old trader. “Regardless of what happened, I’m very optimistic now. I still have my dream of becoming a millionaire, and I will one day become one.”

Following the blaze, the United Nations sent a team of technical experts to support on-the-ground relief and reconstruction efforts. The assessment team recommended the building of a high-rise structure at Waheen market so as to accommodate all businesses including those on the streets beside the market and identified six temporary locations for the people who had lost their businesses.

The assessment also resulted in some business owners receiving small grants from the government – Ms. Muhumed was one of those awarded a grant

“The government compensated me with $1500. I gave $750 of that money to a young lady who used to run a small henna business next to my shop so that she could revive her business. We weren’t close friends, but I empathized with her situation when I saw it,” she says.

Ms Muhamed is among thousands of women in Somaliland who struggle through business to make ends meet.

A Gender Gap Assessment conducted in 2019 by the Nagaad Network, an umbrella group made up 46 local women’s organisations across Somaliland, found that women in Somaliland have less than 50 per cent of the employment and finance opportunities than those offered to men.

Furthermore, a lack of access to finance is the barrier for women to sustainably grow their businesses. While access to the formal banking system is limited in general, women face greater barriers to financial means than men. Men, for example, are twice as likely as women to have an account in their own name at a financial institution.

According to the United Nations, empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to build stronger economies, achieve internationally agreed goals for development and sustainability, and improve the quality of life for women, men, families and communities. The private sector is a key partner in efforts to advance gender equality and empower women