Market of Mothers



By PP Yoonus, via Wikimedia Commons

Where do you buy your food? Who grows it? Who sells it? Bruce Gulland and Robin Basselin travel to an unusual market in India: Ima Keithel. This market is controlled by women only!

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Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Bruce Gulland.

Voice 2 

And I’m Robin Basselin. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand - no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

It is a quiet morning in the town of Imphal, in India’s Manipur state. Slowly, the street begins to fill with women. Some are walking together and talking. Others are alone and thinking. One woman stops to pray. Some of the women have walked very far, from the country into the city.  All of these women are going to the same place.  They are going to Ima Keithel, the “Market of Mothers.” Today’s Spotlight is on this special women’s market in India.

Voice 2 

Nearly 4,000 women sell goods at Ima Keithel market. Their small stores or stalls sit under four, large concrete structures. People can see the market from far away because of the bright, red roofs that cover these buildings. Inside, the market is full of women. Many women wear colourful, traditional scarfs. Some work as they hold small children. Everywhere, women are talking and laughing.

Voice 1 

Walking through the market is a beautiful sight. In one area, there are large containers full of all kinds of food. There are fresh fruits and vegetables. There are containers of bright red dried chilies. There are green herbs and other plants. There are also women who make hot food to serve for the lunch meal. You can get fried eggs and sweet puffed rice.

Voice 2 

If you turn a corner, there are other, less common foods. Large containers hold giant waterbugs swimming in water.  People eat the insects for their meat. There are also tables covered with many different kinds of small dried fish.

Voice 1 

Around another corner, you see cloth made of every color you can imagine. One woman sells dolls and other toys for children to play with. Another woman sells baskets made from weaving together pieces of dried plants. These beautiful baskets hang from above the stall in large groups. Other women sell stone pottery, sharp knives and other kitchen tools.

Voice 2 

You can find many kinds of cloth, handmade crafts, tools, furniture, and food at Ima Keithel. In this way, it is like many other traditional markets. However, one thing makes the Ima Keithel special. Men are not permitted to sell here. Most of the products at the market are even made or grown by women. And women have managed Ima Keithel this way for hundreds of years.

Voice 1 

The stores, or stalls, at Ima Keithel are controlled by families, or clans. Mothers work together with the wives of their sons. Often, older women manage the stalls. And younger women in the family help with daily work - like selling and carrying goods. Each family brings their own special goods to the market. There are over three thousand women who have official stalls to sell at the market. But there are also women who do not have a stall. These women walk around to sell food or other goods. Outside the market, you will also see many women selling on the street. They put blankets on the ground and lay out foods and flowers and other crafts for sale.

Voice 2 

Mostly women shop and buy goods at the market. They sell their own goods and also buy goods for their family. But men also sometimes buy things there. And Ima Keithel is a very popular tourist destination. Thousands of travellers visit the market every year. They want to see the beautiful goods and foods. But they also want to see this place where women have so much control and respect.

Voice 1 

Nungshitombi Laishram is 45 years old. She has worked at Ima Keithel for over 25 years. She is married to a farmer and sells vegetables at the market. She told WIP news,

Voice 3 

“I have been here for a long time. Twenty-seven years have gone by quickly. During that time, I have found a good job. I have found support that comes from belonging to this big women’s group at Ima Keithel. And I feel sure that I will be able to complete my children’s education successfully.”

Voice 2 

Ima Keithel gives women an important part in the Indian economy. Older women control a union that manages the market. They also set up a credit system for women at the market. The women can borrow money and pay it back to the union later. And they use this money to purchase or make goods.

Voice 1 

When the market is not busy, women make things and work while they wait for people to buy from them. They can also talk to each other about important issues. Ima Keithel brings together women from many different families, tribes and places in society. But at the market, there is no conflict. The women work together for everyone’s good.

Voice 2 

The history of Ima Keithel is long. Many people believe it was first started in the 16th century. In Manipur society, women have always had an important place in both trade and business. Because the market is so important, it is often called Queen of Markets.

Voice 1 

Throughout history, Ima Keithel has been an important place. For example, in 1939, the women of the market helped fight against colonial British rule. The women refused to sell rice to feed British soldiers. Rice became difficult to find. And this weakened the colonial powers.

Voice 2 

Because of its important history, women have fought hard to keep Ima Keithel in business.  In the 1990s, the government wanted to destroy Ima Keithel to build a new modern supermarket.  The women sat in protest.  And they were able to make a deal with the government to protect the original building.

Voice 1 

The Market of Mothers in Manipur gives a very good place for women. In the Market, women have power to make decisions for themselves. It is a place where they are safe. Most importantly, it is a place where women earn money for their families. As a result, they have more security. Their children can go to school. Imagine if there were more markets like Ima Keithel!

Voice 2 

Would you want to visit Ima Keithel market? Are there places in your community that are organized and controlled by women? Tell us what you think. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/SpotlightRadio.

Voice 1 

The writer of this program was Sara Leo. The producer was Luke Haley. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Market of Mothers’.

Voice 2 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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Question:

Where do you buy your food? Do you like to cook food?

Comments


SultanMedico's avatar
SultanMedico
said on December 20, 2014

Interesting and informative!

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ruby201189
said on December 20, 2014

hi everybody

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thanhdung07121985@gmail.com
said on January 19, 2015

This is special market I have never heard before.Through this topic, we know important role of women.They can do things same and even better than men.We really appreciate women so much.

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Giant
said on March 23, 2016

It would be nice idea to create, same market in most poor countries, specially for mothers of orphans!

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pat44
said on March 24, 2016

Hi !
I am Patrick from France. Thank you for this interessant topic.
Here is my answer to the question of the day :

Usually I buy my food at a supermarket that is near my flat. It’s quite pracitcal because I only have to do a few steps to go in. There is also a market every thursday on the public place in front of the supermarket. Unfortunately this market is open from 8 am to 14 am. Therefore I can’t go there because I work at that time. Many people hope that this market will change its schedule.
I am not very good at cooking and I don’t enjoy it much. But I sometimes enjoy to cook for my friends or family specially cakes or chocolate mousse or our speciality in Brittany crêpes. These are very thin pancakes and we eat them with suger, chocolate, marmelade. We have also galettes for the salt recipes.

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Honneur
said on December 13, 2019

Thanks for this very interesting program.
A market where only women work is a good idea to protect them from all kinds of aggression, but I wish it wasn’t necessary. I would like all human types to be respected without restriction of any kind.