For many Sierra Leoneans, surviving daily and feeding their family is a challenge. A lot of people here are faced with extreme poverty, not working and barely surviving. Not receiving any support from their government while not having a family that can help them cope. Unfortunately for them, work opportunities are also scarce in the country. The price of almost everything is going up, from rice to meat to petrol, and a lot of people are finding it hard to make ends meet. For many families, the struggle is too hard, and to survive, they have to find their one way.
For many mothers, providing for their family and their children is a priority, and they would do everything they can do to so. And even though the African culture tends to be very serious about gender roles, so expecting the father to be the provider and to work for his family while the mother stays at home looking after the children, reality is often, it is the mothers who are coming up with ways to make money and to make sure that there is food on the table.
For many mothers, selling goods in the street is their only option to make money. From selling juices to ginger beer and bisap to food, you can see them from the early morning to the late evening walking along the streets of Freetown, babies on their back, children waiting at home. While there are no job opportunities for the husband, they had to create their own.
“To sell, I have to wake up at 4 am to start cooking, then at 7 am I make my way to town because that’s the time people go to work and are more likely to buy food. In the morning people are hungry and here in Salone, we like to eat rice in the morning.” says Aissatou, 25, mother of 2 and street food seller.
“I can barely send my children to school. Yes, they go to school and I am the one paying for their school fees. It’s currently 1 million 200 (the equivalent of 75 pounds), but because I am not able to pay all in one I have to pay by instalments, so everytime I sell I am able to pay a little bit.”
On a daily basis, when she is lucky, Aissatou can make between 30 and 40 leones, the equivalent of £1.90. Which provides just enough to buy food for her and her family. For the past 1 year however, she has not been able to work due to her and her son being both sick. Which means that to have food, they have been struggling even more.
“I sell rice and stew. Usually I sell everything and by 12 I am done and come home. Then after, I got the children from school.”
“My husband is currently not working. He has a lot of skills but he is currently not working. I am the only one who is currently working so I am providing for the whole family. It’s not easy.
It’s not easy to make money for the children to survive here.
Aissatou’s son is 5 years old, her daughter is 3 years old. She tries her best to give them a life better than the one she had.
“Both my parents are dead, it’s just me and my siblings left, it’s not easy. I am 25 years old, I have not ‘real’ job. I never had the opportunity to go to school because my parents never had enough money so I am grateful that I am able to send my children to school. It’s important for me that they go to school. That they have this opportunity.”
Aissatou started selling food last year. Before, she was selling goods, raw rice, drinks, and so on. But she wasn’t selling much and needed to find other ways to make money for her family, especially since her husband has not been able to work for a while.
Many mothers here are like Aissatou, they try their best everyday to provide for their home, while having to look after their children, mostly on their own, while their husband struggle to find jobs. They are the main provider of their family and yet often get little recognition for their hard work nor respect from their husbands. Especially because of the oppressive gender norms. And yet, they are the foundation of their family.
I pay respect to all African mothers who are facing extreme poverty and yet doing their best and providing for their family.