Female shoppers lament gropping, harassment at Tejuoso
For most people, shopping in markets is simply a necessity, while for others, it is an enjoyable experience. But for some female shoppers at Yaba (Tejuoso) Market, their experience is nightmarish.
Most first time shoppers at the market end up not going there for a second time, not because they failed to get the items they wished to purchase, but because they got more than what they bargained for.
No thanks to the large number of unruly traders and touts at the market, who take pleasure in either groping female shoppers, or physically, verbally assaulting them.
According to Mrs. Bibian Nwankwo, a pregnant first-time shopper at Yaba Market, “my first time at Yaba Market remains one of the most shocking experiences I have ever had in a market. It is not everyday that you get a total stranger act like he has every right to your body. Despite the fact that my friend earlier warned me to be prepared for anything, it still did not prepare me for what I faced.
Mrs. Nwankwo may have put a stop to shopping at Yaba market with ease, but there are those who cannot easily take such decisions, either because of the proximity of their residence to the market or constant availability of their choice items. Chineye Ezeala is one of such shoppers.
Ezeala has been living in the Yaba area for nearly a decade, and for as long as she can remember, the male traders have always been abusive to women even though things have taken a turn for the worse of recent.
“I have been shopping at Yaba market for about 10 years, and this harassment story has been going on even though it was not this bad. Now, shopping at the market, a lady has to prepare her mind, and also dress for ‘war.’
Mr. Paul Olufemi was close to giving a trader a bloody nose when he went shopping with his wife at the market.
With his wife walking ahead of him, some unruly traders kept on making derogatory comments all of which he took in his strides, having already heard about the nuisance, which they constitute.
What nearly brought the beast in him out was when one of the traders reached for his wife’s backside.
“What even surprised me the most was the other traders were ready to pick a fight with me for protecting my wife. It was after the whole episode that I imagined what girls and ladies go through in the hands of these traders .”
As a result of such ugly experiences and embarrassing scenarios that women and men go through, a non-governmental organisation, Market March not long ago carried out a peaceful protest at the market with a view to creating awareness and bringing a stop to the harassment of shoppers.
The Head of Outreach, Market March, Jekein Lato-Unah, who has also been a victim of the harassment, lamented the worsening scenario, adding that her most recent experience with the unruly traders was what prompted her to organise the protest march.
Interestingly, even though the protest was a peaceful one to educate and plead with the traders to stop harassing buyers, it was met with even more aggression.
“The march was also inspired because we were fed up with the high number of women sharing stories of their experiences in market places. I can guarantee you that every single lady who’s gone to Yaba Market has been harassed or groped. I don’t have the statistics but I’m 100 per cent positive, that’s how bad it is, due to the feedback I have got so far.
“The market march wasn’t received too well; we were called all sorts of names, from being jobless to miserable, lesbians to prostitutes. Unopened sachets of water, stones and boiled corns were hurled at us. The march isn’t restricted to Yaba Market only. It cuts across all markets where women are harassed.”
She also claimed that the market authorities were not only indifferent to the happenings, but in a way approve of these horrible marketing tactics displayed by the male sellers.
“I spoke to the secretary of the market union and our meeting didn’t last up to 10 minutes. From his response, he implied that if it was as bad as we said, ladies would have stopped coming to the market,” Lato-Unah, a women’s rights activist said.
A police officer at the Tejuosho police station, who preferred anonymity agreed that there are series of complaints about the traders’ conduct.
“Yes, there have been some complaints by ladies, who have been harassed by trades in the market, even though I have equally witnessed instances where traders touch shoppe:rs indiscriminately.
“Officially, we only have a few cases of harassment that have been reported as victims are most times reluctant to take up the case because they are either in a hurry to get done with the market, or they simply see it as the norm.
“Most times that we see these harassment going on, we always step in swiftly to address the situation. And most times, the traders are quick to apologise and move on, but this does not stop then from harassing the next female shopper. It’s just something that they have become addicted to. Even when the ladies carried out the march, we were on standby to make sure the traders behaved themselves. Some of them were very rude and abusive from a distance. They truly need serious reorientation. If that does not change the situation, then they should be charged to court.”