Suva, Fiji - The women of Nacokaika village, Naitasiri make significant contributions to their families and village through kai gleaning and selling. Kai or freshwater bivalves gleaning has been a job performed by women in villages along the river banks of Fiji and selling them has been a major source of their household and village income.
Nacokaika village is located along the Rewa River bank in the Baulevu Delta area of Naitasiri. Women in the village glean and trade kai at the Suva and Nausori markets. A woman can collect up to one and half sack of kai a day, and sold at the markets at FJ$70 to FJ$100 depending on the sizes and demand.
Milika Vakarogocibau has been kai gleaning ever since she could remember and now a single mother of two children, her kai business has successfully provided for her family. Every day, she leaves the shore in her boat along with her fellow village women, to whom the kai business is profitable but comes with its challenges.
One, is the fluctuation of kai prices as seasons change and the other, is the fact that the business heavily relies on a woman’s physical condition on a daily basis. Women do both jobs of gleaning and selling kai at the market if there is no one else to do it for them. And women struggle to adapt to the cold seasons and often get sick from gleaning in the cold river, as a result women may lose income from the days they miss gleaning.
Therefore, organizing business records better, setting up a savings account, having access to financial services and insurance would give these women some relief from their challenges in terms of financial security and support for them as entrepreneurs.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with Westpac Banking Corporation, developed, tested and delivered the Continuing Market Business Education (CMBE) programme for market vendors and vendor-producers. The programme offers training on financial literacy and basic business skills and aims to strengthen economic security, rights and livelihoods of especially women market vendors through better finance literacy, improved business competencies and improved access to financial services.
Vakarogocibau said, “Through this business of gleaning and trading kai at the markets, I was able to send my two children to school. The savings will help when I have to buy equipment such as a new pair of goggles.”
Sera Kamakorewa, from Nacokaika village who was among the 47 participants at the recent CMBE training, added, “Budgeting my expenses and saving money were the two highlights I learned from the training. These will improve our practice and help our business”.
The United Nations has designated three consecutive days - the International Day of Rural Women on October 15, World Food Day on October 16 and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on October 17 – in recognition of three related issues that is, rural women, food security and poverty alleviation.
On these days, the CMBE focused on the role of rural women in food production and marketing and their contribution to the food security and poverty alleviation in rural communities. The training in October targeted rural women gleaners and market vendors for kai in the major tributaries of the Sigatoka River, Ba River, Labasa River and Rewa River.
UNDP CMBE Training Coordinator, Cema Bolabola said, “Rural women play a major role in food production and the sale of food produce at municipal markets but their contribution to the local and national economy has been undervalued. CMBE programme aims to empower rural women market vendors who trade at the municipal markets in Fiji”.
CMBE and other training activities is coordinated by UNDP in partnership with the local governments, regional banks and UN Women 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.