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Women informal cross-border traders are facing monumental hurdles

Neelam Rahim |

2-minute read
11 March 2024 | 19:50 CAT

Despite international mandates for gender equality and employment discrimination protection, the report finds that women in informal cross-border trade continue to face various forms of discrimination and violence, which are frequently perpetrated by both state and non-state actors. File image. Image: Reuters/Zohra Bensemra

The governments of Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe have failed to protect women participating in Informal Cross-Border Trade (ICBT) from gender-based violence and economic exploitation, which has impeded the women’s ability to exercise their human rights in the context of decent work, Amnesty International said in a new report.

The report, ‘Cross-border is our livelihood, it is our job’- Decent work as a human right for women cross border traders in southern Africa, details how women working in ICBT in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe frequently face physical assault, sexual harassment, and intimidation, which state officials, including border authorities often perpetrate. Women also face violence from non-state actors.

Amnesty International’s research uncovered that women engaged in cross-border trade frequently encounter substantial economic exploitation, which adversely affects their ability to earn a living and undermines their financial stability.

This exploitation takes various forms, including bribery, theft, and arbitrary confiscation of goods. The susceptibility of women informal cross-border traders to economic exploitation is heightened by gender-based discrimination at borders and a perceived lack of legal protections.

The report highlights systemic state failures in upholding the right to social security, with notable deficits in addressing the substantial care responsibilities of women engaged in cross-border trade.

In the absence of social protection coverage, many women reported being unable to exercise their right to an adequate standard of living. They also faced challenges such as being unable to take time off when sick and having little support in terms of childcare.

Informal cross-border trade (ICBT) in Africa has promoted regional integration and ensured food security across the continent. Women traders interviewed by Amnesty International emphasized how ICBT has catalyzed improving health and education outcomes for their families.

Listen to the full interview on The Daily Round Up with Muallimah Annisa Essack and Mandipha Machaha.


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