Veteran vendor reminisces her 45 years at the market

May 31, 2016

Bijma Wati (right) making a sale at the Nadi Municipal Market (Photo: UNDP)

Nadi, Fiji: If you like cultural itineraries that are literally filled with flavours and colours, a visit to the Nadi market in the Western side of Fiji, is a tour not to be missed.

A huge variety of locally grown produce, from familiar fruits and vegetables to various exotic fruits.

Veteran vendors like Bijma Wati spread their wares on the table in neat displays – a pile of red tomatoes, some ginger, chilies and lime.

Bijma Wati, perhaps one of the oldest vendors at the Nadi market, smiled as she relayed her story as a market vendor for over 45 years. 

“The market was bustling with more varieties of vegetables and people, and the market business generally used to be better,” she recalls. There was a big mango tree and a coconut tree over there, as she pointed to the far right, which used to provide shade to people selling and buying produce, this is now being replaced with roofed rows of stalls and a cemented parking lot.

The business used to be better but Ms Wati, who is almost reaching 70 years old, struggled to raise her three sons as the sole breadwinner for her family. 

Ms Wati knows about her business, how to manage the times of ‘up and down’ in the market business through her all experience, and she is still eager to learn something new. 

Through the years, she learned about budgeting, record keeping, banking as well as how to present her produce and communicate with her customers. 

She recently received a certificate for achieving her skill development through the Continuing Market Business Education (CMBE) training provided by Westpac Banking Corporation and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).   

Market vendors, like Ms Wati, have to keep up with more competitive market business in Fiji. 

“If other stalls put six tomatoes on a plate, I add one more on my plate,” said Ms Wati’s.

Her face lightened up as she recalled how her son’s classmates used to visit her stall in the afternoons to buy tomatoes.

“We have to manage the tough times where there’s not enough produce during and after the floods, so people still have fresh food on their table,” she added.

The CMBE training assists vendors to better cope with those challenges and develop further their market stalls as business through providing financial and business training and access to financial services. 

Since November 2014, 85 training sessions of the five training topics have been conducted in 10 municipal markets in Fiji: Ba, Labasa, Lautoka, Nadi, Namaka, Nausori, Rakiraki Sigatoka, Suva and Tavua, in partnership with municipal governments and Westpac Banking Corporation. The CMBE programme trained 917 market vendors in Financial Literacy and attracted a total of 2,217 registrations by market vendors from the 10 markets with 89.1% registration by women market vendors.  

The Continuing Market Business Education and other training activities with market vendors are conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the local governments, UN Women and regional banks, as part of the Markets for Change project. 

The Markets for Change project is a six-year, multi-country initiative that aims to ensure marketplaces in rural and urban areas of Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are safe, inclusive and non-discriminatory, promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. A UN Women project, Markets for Change is implemented in partnership with UNDP and supported by the Australian Government.

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