Shobna and Sofia (middle) during the training (Credit: Tomoko Kashiwazaki/UNDP).

Suva, Fiji
– Market vendors in the Pacific have traded for many years and learnt business skills by trial and error, and have limited opportunity to strengthen their businesses through better financial education, progressive business skills and practices, timely information and access to financial services. In addition, the livelihoods of market vendors are unprotected and so their income and livelihoods suffer heavy losses during natural disasters.

Between 75 and 90 percent of vendors working in Pacific marketplaces are women and their earnings often make up a significant portion of the incomes of many low income earning households.

Under the Markets for Change (M4C) project, women market vendors at the Suva Municipal Market now have the chance to learn basic financial literacy through training planned to be conducted monthly by Westpac. 82 market vendors including four men attended a recent training session on Financial First Steps, the first of five topics to be delivered as part of Continuing Market Business Education, conducted at the Suva Municipal Market.

The Continuing Market Business Education and other training activities with women market vendors are conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the local governments, UN Women and Westpac. The trainings aim to improve and strengthen the financial literacy and business practice of market vendors especially women market vendors.

Shobna Verma, a 53-year-old vendor for over 25 years, participated in the training. “Going through the training provided by UNDP and Westpac, I hope to gain more knowledge on financial practices such as saving and budgeting to improve my business and increase profit,” said Shobna. She has been serving as assistant secretary to the Suva United Market Vendors Association.

“The information provided during the training was very useful, particularly on savings and budgeting and will help me set long-term goals for my business,” said Sofia Talei, who has been working at the market for four years, selling vegetables, root crops and fruits. “I have bought land and will start growing vegetables and fruits, so next year I will be bringing my own produce to sell at the market,” she added.

Training will be rolled out at the municipal markets in Ba, Labasa, Lautoka, Nadi, Nausori, Rakiraki, Sigatoka, Suva and Tavua in partnership with the Ministry of Local Government, Urban Development, Housing and Environment; National Centre for Small and Micro-enterprise Development (NCSMED); Municipal Governments; and the Westpac Banking Corporation. It aims to reach out 2,300 women market vendors in Fiji.

The Markets for Change - Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu project is a six-year initiative, which aims 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 women’s empowerment. The Markets for Change project is a joint UN programme implemented by UN Women and UNDP with principal funding from the Australian Government.

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