By Mihoko Jinno
Levuka, Fiji - On the main street of Levuka town alongside the ocean, you will find market vendors in small tents selling a variety of products: taro, cassava, tomatoes, cucumbers, coconuts, and more.
Farmers from the nearby communities bring their produce to sell at the small market.
Among them is Sarafina Diwaqa who, every morning, brings large piles of vegetables to the market, from her family farm in Taviya village, half an hour away from Levuka.
Ms Diwaqa was one of the participants in the Continuing Market Business Education (CMBE) training held in Levuka earlier this year. The CMBE aims to build the financial literacy and business competencies of market vendors, especially women, and enable them to access financial services.
The training programme, is conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with Westpac Banking Corporation, and is part of UN Women’s Markets for Change project.
Ms Diwaqa said with confidence, “I learned ‘the way of earning and keeping’ from the training.”
”I earn more than twice now because I practice what I learned from the training. I started to keep the record of my business, opened my bank account to save money, and used it on a budget for my family, village and churches,” she added.
CMBE provides two phases of learning: Basic Financial Literacy; and then Improve your Market Business. The training was followed up by the Financial Seminar and Fair held at Levuka market, as the last component of the CMBE, to connect market vendors to providers of financial services.
The event enabled market vendors to access financial services and related government services which support market vendors. The service providers who participated in the Financial Seminar and Fair included Fiji Revenue and Customs Services, Fiji National Provident Fund, Fiji Development Bank, Westpac Bank, Fiji Council of Social Services Microfinance, Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Ministry of Agriculture, and Fiji Bio-Security Services.
CMBE Training Coordinator with the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, Cema Bolabola said, “The CMBE provided market vendors with not only the knowledge and skills but also confidence to see themselves and act as businesspersons.”
“The business of market venders often depends on changing weather and climate. Financial services such as savings, microcredit, micro and livelihood insurance could be used to secure their livelihoods,” said Bolabola.
CMBE training sessions with market vendors are conducted by UNDP in partnership with local governments, UN Women, and regional banks, as part of the UN Women’s Markets for Change project.
Markets for Change has provided CMBE training sessions at 12 municipal markets in Fiji since it started in November 2014. In 2017, training has included two new markets and focused on facilitating interventions that connect market vendors to appropriate financial services including microfinance, micro insurance and superannuation.
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. It is a UN Women project implemented in partnership with UNDP and supported by the Australian Government.
* Mihoko Jinno is a UN University Volunteer in Communications at the UNV Pacific based at the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji