Imphal: Just like a 52-year-old Yumnam Ibeyeima, a woman vendor at Ima Keithel or mother’s market in the heart of Imphal, many women vendors in Manipur are grappling severe hardships caused by pandemic lockdown which resulted in closing down of the iconic women market.
Ima Keithel, known as Asia’s largest market run only by women, a market that housed an array of items ranging from clothing to food products has come to a halt since March 21 due to outbreak of COVID-19 to contain the spread of the disease. Since then, the Imas or mothers are not engaged in any trading activity and waiting for systematic guidelines from the government to reopen.
For over 4,000 regular licensed women vendors at Ima Keithel, their families’ sole source of income has completely stopped, and those who have little savings before the lockdown has dried, making them helpless.
On Thursday, the women vendors appealed to the state government to allow them to open the market for a few days before the Ningol Chakouba Festival with proper guidelines and SoPs for COVID-19 to follow as precautionary measures.
Yumnam Ibeyeima, who is also the secretary of Mayanglang Phijoi Yonbi Nupi Lup, spoke to media persons during a press conference. One of four women’s organisations at the market, she said that all they asked from the government is to open the Ima Keithel for at least four to five days before the Ningol Chakouba festival which is on November 17.
If the government allows the street vendors to sell things outside, they should also allow us to run business for a few days before the festival, said Ibeyeima, a mother of two sons.
The women vendors also questioned the government for allowing conducting the by-polls when many are violating the COVID-19 SoPs, threatening the further spread of the virus in the state.
Since 2011, Ibeyeima, who is a BSc graduate, has been running a stall at Ima Keithel, taking over her mother’s business. She sells Meitei traditional clothing like Wangkhei phee, Rani phee etc.
Since time immemorial, women in Manipur have known to manage the family’s day-to-day financial expenses which are a significant symbol of women empowerment.