The trade of touting has long been dominated by men due to the nature of the job. Of late, however, some courageous women have been finding their way into the business.
Harare’s economically active women in the informal sector have mostly been confined to ‘softer trades’ such as vending and hairdressing, which are not physically challenging. As economic opportunities continue to dwindle, some women are now finding their way into the male dominated trade of touting in order to put food on their tables.
The women touts are mostly found at illegal pick-up points for long distance routes such as the Bindura-Mt Darwin pick up point along Sam Nujoma Street and at the Bulawayo pick-up point along Samora Machel near the Show Grounds.
One male tout at the Show Grounds, who refused to be named, revealed that the female touts’ job is mainly to sit in the kombi masquerading as a passenger while the vehicle does the rounds looking for passengers in town. This is done to lure passengers who might be deceived that the vehicle is about to fill up.
“We used to sit in the kombis with other male touts but we realised that the passengers were no longer falling for the con as they would recognise the touts. The women are doing the trick,” he explained.
A few courageous women have also managed to become conductors and drivers in Harare’s public transport sector.
Harare News talked to Mariam Guyo* (27) from Eastlea, a female tout who works along Sam Nujoma Street.
“Touting is just like any other job. It is better than prostitution,” said the dreadlocked Guyo, a single mother of two. Touts in Harare are notorious for their hustling ways but Guyo said that this does not affect her as she is only after making a living. “I started touting due to poverty. I used to sell imported herbal products for a company but they were not paying our bonuses, so I left. My life has greatly improved since I became a tout,” she said.
Guyo also engages in ‘main stream’ touting – shouting out for passengers. She said that she mostly touts for passengers to fill up small private vehicles such as sedans, which require fewer passengers than a kombi. For loading a private vehicle she gets $1, the same amount she gets for being a con passenger.
However, Sisi Chipo, a vendor at the place where Guyo touts, said that female touts are at great risk, “They are looking for money but for me I cannot do it. They might be at risk of being abused since they will be touting from inside, so some people might kidnap and rape them.”
The female touts are also known for their flexibility, as they have to come out of the kombi through the windows in order not to disturb the seating arrangement of actual passengers. Touting is a physical job that calls for one to be alert and active.
* not her real name