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Shipping & Logistics

Women working in matatu bear the brunt of Covid-19 disruption

Public service vehicles along Accra road in Nairobi
Public service vehicles along Accra road in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Covid-19 pandemic has heavily disrupted all sectors of the economy leading to job losses, diminished livelihoods and in extreme cases total collapse of companies.

The transport and logistics sector is not an exception. In fact it is one of the sectors that have been disproportionately impacted adversely owing to restrictions of movements and social distancing rules instituted to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Now a new survey says that while the transport sector is reeling from the Covid-19 woes, women in the sector are the worst hit.

The report by women lobby, Flone Initiative shows that females in transport have lost 83 percent of their daily earnings.

Women employed in public service vehicles (PSV), the survey notes, currently take home as little as Sh100 daily from the average of Sh1,200 they were earning before the pandemic whose first case was reported in Kenya in March.

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The survey conducted in April 2020 shows 52 percent of women sampled had lost their jobs because their employers had shut business due to movement restrictions.

Flone Initiative, a women-led organisation, working towards the creation of safe, violence free, gender sensitive spaces for women in transport in Africa, said those who had lost their jobs in the PSV segment currently mainly rely on the goodwill of former colleagues for short-term jobs including helping conductors call out for passengers.

The survey which sampled female drivers, conductors, booking clerks and mechanics in Nairobi and its environs shows the women fear contracting the virus since their job entails interacting with customers and handling money daily.

With the women facing tough times making ends meet, Fone Initiative wants the State to consider expanding its cash transfer programme to include these transport workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Ministry of Labour and Social Protection should expand the cash transfer programme during the pandemic to include women in the public transport industry,” said Flone Initiative in its recommendations.

The government’s cash transfer programme currently caters for the senior citizens above the age of 70, persons with severe disabilities and orphans and vulnerable children.

The beneficiaries receive a bi-monthly stipend of Sh2,000 paid every two months in a Sh4,000 lump sum under the programme dubbed Inua Jamii.

“Such individuals (women in transport) should benefit from income support in case of a crisis-related reduction of working time or job loss,” the survey said.

More than 90 percent of women sampled cited lack of food as their primary concern while 14 percent expressed general fear of police brutality after curfew hours.

The lobby said the cash transfers should be accompanied by basic training on entrepreneurship or promoting other business opportunities that would allow women to work from home.

The proposal comes amid measures contained in the Public Health (Covid-19 Operation of Public Service Vehicles) rules 2020 that impose a Sh20,000 for PSV that fails to provide passengers with contact-free fare payment option such as M-Pesa.

The rules also outlaw serving food or drinks to passengers while on board.

The use of digital fare payments is aimed at cutting down on handling of cash to help contain the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected over 36,200 people in Kenya and killed 624.

Due to the tough restrictions, matatus and buses have seen their margins significantly reduced, as Covid-19 rules demand that the operators keep half of the seats empty to meet e social distancing requirement.

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