From where I stand: “Some demand sex before awarding a contract”
Sarah Quaye Reeves is a proud restaurant owner whose business has grown and become more competitive since the expansion of business registration and other services came to her city. But her number one challenge remains the daily sexual harassment from some of her male customers.
I used to work for a mobile service provider, but my salary was not enough to meet the needs of my family with five children. Day-to-day survival was a constant struggle.
In 2013, I resigned from my job and started a small ‘cook shop’ (mini restaurant) using my savings of USD 500. At first, it was a makeshift shop run on a small scale, since there was no local government office in my city, Buchanan, where I could register the business. When your business is not registered, you cannot access loans to grow your business or compete with other businesses for contracts.
I eventually traveled 150 Kilometres to Monrovia, just to register and regularize my business. Many women business owners simply don’t have the time or means to travel that distance. The process was long and expensive…sometimes business owners have to pay bribes to process the documents.
Things are better now, since a local service centre was established here and many women are formalizing their businesses.
The main challenge for me as a woman business owner is the daily sexual advances from male customers and men who represent offices that I provide catering services for. Some demand sex before awarding a contract. I have had to stand firm against such behaviour.
It hasn’t been easy, but today, I am a proud business woman. My restaurant and catering service is worth up to USD 100,000 and known as one of the best in Buchanan.”
Forty-one-year-old Sarah Quaye Reeves is the owner of Valentine Restaurant, located in Buchanan, 150 kilometres from Liberia’s capital Monrovia. Between the period of July and December 2016, a total of 235 business—of which 40 were women-owned—were registered at the Grand Bassa Service Centre, established as part of a decentralization effort by Liberia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. UN Women supports the Service Centres in gathering gender-disaggregated data and in ensuring that services are gender-sensitive. Reeves’s story reflects the many barriers that women entrepreneurs still face, including sexual harassment, and directly relates to Sustainable Development Goal 8, which promotes decent work for all, safe working environment which are free from violence and harassment, and encourages entrepreneurship and growth of small and medium sized enterprises.
Read more stories in the “From where I stand...” editorial series.