18 April 2013

Liberia: Men, Women Brave Deadly Traffic to Earn a Living

Photo: Boakai M.Fofana/allAfrica.com
Unemployed youths in Liberia.

Musu Talawally, 41, is a mother of five who finds herself among other women and men running in the midst of moving vehicles, selling cold mineral water on a bridge in the Jamaica road community, all in the name of meeting parental obligations.

"I leave my house 7am every morning to come and sell and do not leave until 10 pm-that's the only way sometimes I make profits," she said hawking under the burning sun.

Life of a Widow

Musu said she lost her husband during the Liberian Civil War and since then life as the sole breadwinner for the family has been tough.

"Since there was no one to help me and my husband died in the war, I started selling water, am still on it. Only me, no one at all is helping me and my children. I have to pay my children school fees, pay house rent," said Musu.

She told FrontPageAfrica amid the honking of the horns as she passed between cars with the sac of water in her hand, that it is the profit she earns from the sale of the water that she gets money to send two of her kids to school.

She has been doing this business since 1997 and through this she has been able to sustain her family but the profit margin has not been stable.

"Some days I sell three sacs or four and go home in Logan town. Because no hand, this is why I am selling water, if not, I can still tie my waist and sell whatever," said Musu.

Criminal attacks

Musu said the business is not void of risks and noted that on several occasions she has been heartlessly attacked by marauding criminals while selling water on the Somalia Drive Bridge.

"I come at 7 o'clock in the morning and leave at 10 o'clock in the evening, which is very risky. Criminals have chased me here to take away my money; I have lost a phone," she said.

"At times when they come after me, I just jump in someone's car and go home for that day-in that way am safe for that day. Running among cars is risky. "

"We could get killed or hurt in the process, but I thank God nothing has happened to us so far. Sometimes we have to talk to motorbike riders to give us chance to sell."

Due to the long hours spent in between cars selling water, she and her colleagues usually add money and cook something to eat. She said she hopes to one day she can move on to a better and safer business.

"We selling here, who knows, people are watching us-maybe someone will come to our aid," said Musu. Jeffery Johnson, 24, another water trader, blames their plight on governmental neglect.

"Because of the country we find ourselves in is why we are like this," he said. "Young men like us are not supposed to be struggling like this. I blame the government-they are supposed to find solution to our problems."

Johnson said selling water is not what he wants to do but he has no choice as there is no one to help sponsor him through.

"I struggled after the war to support myself to go to school; but had to drop out of school at 10th grade because I could not support myself anymore," he said.

He called on the Liberian government to at least provide them with skills training programs as a means of empowering them to leave the dangerous traffic selling.

"When I become an Engineer or even do drafting, which will help me in the future to adequately take care of my wife and two children," he said.

In spite of the danger of running in between cars, Johnson still thinks it is better than engaging in unwholesome acts.

"I have spent year selling water because I don't want to be like other young men who are doing nothing but steal people's things," he said.

"Some days I earn L$800.00 or less. A young man like me, this is not where am supposed to be-holding water in my hands in the sun. Since we are three men and six women, we need to be united, so we don't allow other people to sell here."

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