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Meet Sierra Leone’s Essential Workers: The Petty Trader

by Alhassan Lamin
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Growing up, I didn’t have the opportunity to get a formal education because I was my grandmother’s caretaker. But after staying with her for years, my aunt trained me to do business. When my grandmother got sick in 2012, I started trading full time. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, things were well; business was okay. By then there were sales, most of our goods used to finish within the day. But as soon as the pandemic came here, things got worse. We survive by the grace of God because some days, we hardly make sales.  

I’m a single parent; I have children whose burdens are totally on me. I pay their fees, buy uniforms, and give lunch every day. And on top of that, security people come and harass us unnecessarily. 

When the government imposed double lockdowns, it was hard for me. For the family to have some food at home, I had to buy garri and some other basics, which we had to manage. The curfew reduced our working hours. We could leave the house early, and we could run our business till late hours, but now we have to be home early to avoid trouble with the police. 

We used to cook every day of the week, now we can only cook once during the week, on Sundays. I take care of eight people, which includes my grandmother, children, and relatives. I never used to get outside support until one of my cousins started helping us with bags of rice once in a while. For now, I only hope that things will return to normal just as they used to be. I’m 38 and a petty trader.

Credit: OSIWA/ Essential Stories

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