It is customary to haggle over price … a little,

It is part of their dignity as traders,

They are not beggars.

They have worked to grow, collect, make, package, or carry their wares, to sell them.

They may not have access to fair credit to buy the goods they trade: they may start in debt with high interest to pay from their sales

They are often the sole breadwinner for their extended families. And it is not always ‘surplus’ that they sell, but family heirloom crafts, if that is all they have.

Time spent selling in markets or roadsides is time away from their children, from the care of the sick and elderly, from their community role or from their family vegetable plot – if they have one: their time is of value.

It is not true that traders never accept a price that doesn’t give them some profit.

Some are so poor they have to accept any cash price at all, however low, in order to buy a bowl of rice, or a sweet potato, or an onion, to feed their family today – tomorrow is another matter.

It is customary to haggle over price … a little …

Women, trading, give us:

 Food or drink we need in the market

souvenirs we take home

photographs for our magazines, albums and blogs

the ambience of our exotic holidays

their smile of welcome

their hope

It is customary to haggle over price … a little … just a little … but be careful not to beat them down into perpetual poverty.


Trish Nicholson is the author of Passionate Travellers: Around the World on 21 Incredible Journeys in History,

and the travel memoirs, Inside the Crocodile: The Papua New Guinea Journalsand Journey in Bhutan: Himalayan Trek in the Land of the Thunder Dragon (ebook only)

Women Trading
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8 thoughts on “Women Trading

  • February 3, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Hey Trish, lovely post – thanks for giving us all something to think about. Great photos too 🙂

    • February 3, 2012 at 7:19 pm

      Thanks, Dionne. My favourite pic is the first one. She was laughing, not just because I had bought a bangle from her earlier in the day, but I’d been ‘chatting’ to her in the universal language of mime. In the ‘west’ folk would walk away embarrassed, thinking you are gaga, but in my travels, I’ve found people (especially other women), wait and watch, realising I am trying to communicate something. It nearly always succeeds too, but with a great deal of laughter from us, and the small crowd that inevitably gathers to enjoy the fun!

  • February 4, 2012 at 2:29 am

    Very moving.This is so true! I love this post Trish! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • February 7, 2012 at 12:59 pm

      Lovely to see you again, tj, thanks for commenting. So glad we are ‘in-tune’, and what magnificent smiles those traders have 🙂

  • February 7, 2012 at 7:33 am

    Brilliant – someone standing up for women traders. Not looking to haggle them down to the last penny (as if we can’t afford it) but understanding just what this transaction means to them.

    • February 7, 2012 at 12:57 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Jo, you sound as passionate about it as I am. The post was inspiored when I was going through one of my travel journals recently, where I had recorded the gist of a conversation between a group of tourists in Asia, who were comparing notes on the best way to get the best prices…”And then just walk away, see, they’ll always call you back and then you can go even lower…” I’d love it to go viral!!

  • February 8, 2012 at 8:52 am

    Wonderful insightful post with beautiful photos. Really enjoyed. Thanks for sharing:))

    • February 8, 2012 at 10:20 am

      So glad you enjoyed this, thank you for commenting. Something I’ve noticed in all my travels is a ready recognition, or comaraderie between women – complete strangers with totally different ways of life are ready to smile and nod some kind of shared understanding. In Tunisia once, I was walking towards a woman wearing the full veil (but one that can be un-hooked at the side of the face), her eyes seemed to be smiling so I smiled in response. As she passed by she let down the veil momentarily to show me she was indeed smiling! To me, these are the sort of ‘travel moments’ to treaasure.

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