Image: UN Women/Caitlin Clifford & Terri O’Quinn
Women leaders of Market Vendor Associations (MVA) from Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu were given the opportunity to speak at the 13th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women and 6th Meeting of Pacific Ministers for Women in Suva.
The 6 women leaders shared their personal stories of hardship and success in leading, representing and advocating for the needs of all market vendors, specifically women, working in the informal economy.
These women, through their MVAs, with support from UN Women’s Markets for Change (M4C) project and funding from the Australian government are trying to ensure that marketplaces in rural and urban areas in Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are safe, inclusive and non-discriminatory, promoting gender equality and empowering women.
Varanisese Maisamoa, President of Rakiraki MVA in Fiji, was instrumental in ensuring that women’s needs were also incorporated into municipal markets building plans and structures after Tropical Cyclone Winston destroyed the market in February 2016.
Reflecting on the M4C project, Ms Maisamoa said “these trainings really open our minds and build our confidence – what we couldn’t do before, we now know the way, because we are educated.”
The objective of the 4-day conference is to identify strategic measures and make recommendations to support the economic empowerment and well being of Pacific women.
According to Ms Maisamoa, the M4C project promotes the economic empowerment of women, stating that, “…as a market vendor, as a woman, M4C has changed my life, the way I see my work, my colleagues and my working environment – I am stronger, bold – I am much better than before.”
These women are not only economically empowered but they have a new found confidence in themselves and what they do. “Though people see market vendors as ordinary women, their contribution in terms of the money earned and contributed to the economy is very important,” said Maureen Sariki, President of Honiara City MVA in Solomon Islands.
The M4C project is promoting financial literacy, access to financial services, improved agricultural skills and market infrastructure which ultimately enhances the roles and influence of women market vendors.