One Stop Border Post provides livelihood opportunities to women headed households

Traders who ferry their products across the Taveta-Holili borders are anxious to witness the launch of One Stop Border Posts (OSBPs) operations. The OSBPs are under construction, funded by TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) and are expected to be operational by June 2015. Once operational, the OSBPs are expected to reduce the time it takes a truck to cross the borders, by at least 30 per cent.

For women in Taveta, the OSBP already provides benefits in the form of a steady pay cheque from what is considered by many to be non-traditional work for women: construction work. Construction at Taveta began in 2012. Even then, the site was characterised by a large presence of female workers. During site visits by the TMEA team, it was noted that significant numbers of women were to be found in the construction crews, working hard to move equipment and mix cement and other materials. One in four skilled labourers at the site is female, and as many as two-thirds of the unskilled labour force are women. Many of them are young, single mothers aged between 18 and 30. The male workforce tends to skew slightly older.

The Site Manager at Taveta OSBP, James Chuchu gives some insight into why so many of the construction workers are young women.

“The community around Taveta is characterised by high rates of poverty and alcoholism. Land productivity is low so farming is not an option. There are limited alternative economic opportunities for women, many of whom are young mothers with dependants to care for. So they come here, looking for work.”

Although most of the women are not able to lift loads as heavy as the men are, this does not deter Chuchu from hiring women. “After all, there is more to construction than just lifting heavy loads!” In responding to a question on whether or not the women experience sexual harassment on site – another fear typically associated with construction sites – Chuchu says no cases have been reported either to management or to the police. The Site Manager’s willingness to employ women in non-traditional roles has provided the women an unexpected source of income, thus reducing their household poverty and increasing their quality of life. This opportunity has also shattered some stereotypes about women’s work and conditions on construction sites. The Holili-Taveta border currently serves an average of 25 trucks a day. It is expected that there will be a significant increase in traffic volume at Taveta-Holili OSBPs once the Mwatate–Taveta–Arusha road is upgraded. TradeMark East Africa is funding 15 OSBPs in East Africa, including the one at Taveta–Holili, at the
Kenya–Tanzania border. Each border post consists of office buildings for border agencies, an inspection verification unit and parking areas for vehicles. All OSBP staff will undergo gender sensitization once the OSBPs are operational.