With support from Trade Mark East Africa, EASSI is implementing a project targeting women cross border traders entitled “Consolidating the gains of women cross border traders in the East African Community (EAC) economic integration process”.The project whose overall goal is to increase the value and volume of trade by women cross border traders in the East African Community common market” is a continuity from a previous project on Empowering women cross border traders in the East African common market. The project recognizes that trade policy reform in the EAC region, with the coming into force of the Customs Union and Common Market Protocols, largely focused at the formal economy without considering the women traders who are the majority in cross border trade although in the informal economy.
Under the project, EASSI endeavors to identify opportunities for Women Cross Border Traders (WCBTs) provided for in various EAC trade or legal instruments in order to enable them benefit just like their male counterparts. Through their women traders Associations, the WCBTs are able to lobby and advocate for their rights especially regarding the challenges experienced while transacting across the various border points. The project is being implemented at the border points of Malaba (Kenya/Uganda), Busia (Kenya/Uganda), Mutukula (Tanzania/Uganda), Katuna (Rwanda/Uganda), Holili/Taveta (Kenya/Tanzania), Namanga (Kenya/Tanzania and Kabanga/Kobero (Burundi/Tanzania) border.
Activities and Voices from the Beneficiaries
To raise the awareness of women cross border traders on the customs and immigration procedures in the EAC, EASSI conducted sensitization workshops aimed at creating awareness among WCBTs on their rights regarding border crossing and cross border trade which would ultimately lead to WCBTs increased use of formal crossing systems. As a result of the sensitization workshops, the women cross border traders got a better understanding of the simplified trade regime including the certificate of origin which was being sold to some traders at Holili and Malaba border since they did not know that it was free. WCBTs also better understood that free movement of goods originating from East Africa does not mean that a trader will bring in goods completely free but rather that the goods will be exempted from import duty. Traders also got to understand that each country has a list of sensitive products and therefore dealing in those products would lead to a trader incurring more costs at the border for example sugar in Kenya and cashew nuts in Tanzania.
The sensitization workshops on EAC customs and immigration procedures resulted into WCBTs increased knowledge and skills in transacting across borders and use of formal systems for example Joyce Muithe, a trader from Taveta border noted that the training had really enlightened her since her son has married a woman from Tanzania and they have always used ‘panya routes’ whenever they are moving into either Kenya or Tanzania for fear of passing through immigration. After the training, the lady encouraged her son to go through immigration and was amazed when the couple crossed with no one disturbing them. She vowed to enlighten other traders who fear passing through immigration and let them know that the beliefs they hold regarding border crossing are just myths.
Traders at the Malaba border also appreciated the training noting that they have always wondered why fisheries officials confiscate their fish at the border. From the training, they learnt that fish has required inches to be traded and that the traders were dealing in undersize fish without knowing that it is the reason the officials always confiscate their fish. They will now ensure that they buy the right size to avoid losing their fish at the border.
As a result of the interaction between WCBTs and border officials, the Border officials also became responsive to the needs of women for example at the Malaba border, the fisheries department requested the women to get organized into a fish traders association. He promised wto help them get a fish trading license which will make it easy for them to clear the fish at the border unlike when they do the clearance individually.
EASSI has also conducted National level trainings with women cross border traders from various border points in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The trainings were comprehensively arranged to cover topics on advocacy, the simplified trade regime, required standards for goods commonly traded by WCBTs, Business skills including marketing and value addition, loans and credit schemes among others.
As a result of the trainings, the WCBTS increased their knowledge and skills in transacting across borders, business management, required standards and value addition for example AngukuFavourNaima from Bibia border in Uganda noted that “when someone talks of value addition, I always think of a process but from this training I have learnt that value addition is not only limited to a process but the way I package my goods, the way I display them and talk to my clients is also value addition. I will therefore start adding value to my business so as to grow big, and i will make sure i add value value to my products. I have also learnt to evaluate my agricultural products and determine at which stage to sell them; whether to sell when they are straight from the garden or after adding some value for example grinding maize and selling it as sifted flour”
Fransisca Mumbua from Taveta border noted that “At the Taveta border we have never received any training on leadership and governance. I really thank and appreciate EASSI for inviting me for this training and the session on leadership which has helped me reflect and realize that I always lead my people without considering their issues or listening to them. I am now going back to my border as a role model leader who will listen to people before passing out harsh judgments or decisions on them.”
Florence Atieno from Busia border pointed out that “from the leadership session, I have learnt that dictating all the time does not make me a good leader and I appreciate learning that there are other styles of leadership that I can use and still remain a good leader.”