The Harmattan wind blows strongly, shaking wooden posts and lifting plastic tarps on a pair of roadside shops. Edna, her sister, and their friend sell almost everything here: from fuel and notebooks to onions and biscuits. Their regular customers include students walking to school, okada drivers refueling their bikes, and farmers. The three women work next to a correctional center and live with their families in the officers’ quarters. Edna shares her story while selling king drivers—a typical Sierra Leonean cake sold by street vendors—out of her friend’s shop. She describes her work and its dangers.

Edna's Story

I am a trader, buying and selling anything that gives me a small profit. My items change based on what I can find or make during the year. One season brings plenty and the other brings scarcity. Dry season means slow sales and more expensive items. Gari (grated cassava powder) gives the most profit. It’s easy to make and doesn’t spoil if made properly and tied in plastic bags. Country chicken also sells well. I buy them at loumas (weekly markets) in nearby villages and sell them for a profit in my town.

I like and dislike my work. I enjoy bringing extra money to my home, but dislike walking around town. I stopped doing that after the accidents. I’m friends with many market women and some are like my sisters. We always meet up to sell together and I love that. Sadly some of them passed away last year. They were struck by cars while walking. The morning fog and long grass hides people easily and makes it difficult to see around sharp turns. Some drivers drink too much and others sleep behind the wheel after working long days. If they hit somebody, they might panic and run away from the accident. Some try to help the women. Sadly the driver or the woman might get injured or die.

I really felt it when my sisters passed away from road accidents. I became depressed because one of them expected a child. I want these deaths to stop. The government must put speed limits on the road to make drivers slow down. People should also cut the tall grass so drivers can see around corners. Drivers must honk horns when going through fog or around sharp turns. As for me, I mostly sell out of my friend’s shop now. If I need to walk around town I mostly use back roads or cut through people’s yards.

Edna spends some time in quiet reflection, then decides to change topics. She calls her daughters over to take a family picture. They quickly enter the house to change into their school uniforms. After posing, the family reviews the photos and choose their favorites while laughing together. Edna asks Kumba, her youngest daughter, about her career plans after receiving an education. Kumba says she just wants to learn her ABCs and everybody laughs. Edna continues her story by talking about her children and sharing what makes her happy. She concludes with advice to Sierra Leonean women.

Cecilia is my eldest child and she’s in senior secondary school. I don’t want her to become a trader like me. I hope she becomes a doctor, but she wants to be a nurse and that’s okay. She’s a serious student in school. Mary is in primary school class five. She wants to be a bank manager. Last term she finished in second position. Kumba is in primary school class one. I think she will make a great lawyer. I have one boy Jeremiah. He’s seven years old and in primary school class two. He wants to be the president of Sierra Leone or a teacher.

My four children give me the most happiness and joy. I had no problems or complications during any of their births. I thank God for that and for their continued health. I’m also thankful for their free education. What a great program! The school fees were too expensive, but now I only pay for the uniform and some materials. Let free quality education continue with no problems and let God bless President Bio with much success.

I advise my Sierra Leonean sisters to avoid abortion if possible, unless you are in danger. Be careful of so-called doctors who perform unsafe abortions as you risk death. Raise your children because they are your future—they will support you in your old age. You will have joy when you share your success with them. I advise girls to get an education and avoid any boyfriend business. You can do that after finishing your studies. God will bless you with children when you can properly care for them.