Imphal: Yumnam Ibeyeima, a woman vendor at Ima Keithel or mother’s market in the heart of Imphal, stated that many women vendors in Manipur are grappling with severe hardships caused by pandemic lockdown that had resulted in them closing down their vending spaces at the iconic women market.
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 been halted since March 21 due to the 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 have been dried out, making them helpless.
On Thursday,during a press meet held at Manipur Press Club, the women vendors have made an appeal to the state government to allow them to open the market for a few days leading to Ningol Chakouba festival with proper guidelines and SoPs for COVID-19 to follow as precautionary measures.
Speaking to media persons, Yumnam Ibeyeima, secretary of Mayanglang Phijoi Yonbi Nupi Lup, one of four women’s organisations at the market said that all they asked from the government is to allow them 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.
The women vendors also questioned the government for allowing conducting the by-polls when many are violating the COVID-19 SoPs, posing the threat for 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.