UN helps to bring major changes to Pacific markets
A UN project brings welcome improvements for market vendors around the Pacific.
A United Nations Market project is bringing positive change to the lives of women market vendors in Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
The multi-country initiative, Markets For Change, aims to ensure that marketplaces are safe, inclusive and non-discriminatory, and promote gender equality and empowerment of women.
UN Women's Deputy Representative, Nicolas Burniat spoke to Indira Moala.
NICOLAS BURNIAT: Today we have seventeen market vendor associations, representing over seven thousand registered paying members that have been created. And in more than 13 of those, or actually in 13 of these market vendor associations, there's more than 50% women in leadership positions, executive committees, and nine actually headed by women. So a lot of the work done was helping the women actually organise themselves so that they can have a voice when they negotiate with local government, but also so that they can start running activities for the benefit of their own members. You know it goes to very simple things like, how many toilets do you plan for the markets and the vendors? This is the importance of... how women spend their lives. And you have dignity at work. Well the initial plans of the government were for like two bathrooms. Through interventions of the vendors and by their own voice, they were able to ensure that at minimum there would be double that at that market. The other one is we do a lot of financial literacy training. And in Fiji where this has progressed the most so far, we have had over 1300 women that have received financial literacy training.
INDIRA MOALA: So essentially this project is not just supporting them in their trade but also empowering them, educating them, and protecting them by providing safer spaces for them to operate in?
NB: Exactly. So it's really looking at a cross-sectoral response in increasing women's governance and voice, increasing the economic ability and economic return for them and their family, increasing the gender sensitivity of the local government and increasing their safety and their dignity at work.
IM: On the economic front, as well as the increase in revenue in their households that this is supporting, this is also doing a lot of good collectively in helping boost the economic return in their countries. How is that effecting those women who have come from countries that are recovering post-cyclone?
NB: Yeah and this has been of course one of the key questions, key concerns for the countries, both in Vanuatu and Fiji where after Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu and here after Cyclone Winston in Fiji we directly saw an impact on the food security. So one of our key concerns with markets is to really quickly work with the vendors, with local government, with the partners to ensure that the vendors would be taken into account with the response efforts and the recovery efforts. In Fiji here what we've done so far is work with the ministry of local government and with the Australian government to provide temporary spaces, tents for the women market vendors to still be able to have some economic activity where the markets have been destroyed, and especially the Rakiraki market that has been blown away. But we've also worked directly with DFAT again and with other partners to ensure that we will be doing very soon distribution of seeds, fertilisers and tools to the women market vendors so they can restart their market gardens.
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