UNDP's Akiko Fujii with some of Tavua's prominent women (Photo: Tomoko Kashiwazaki/UNDP)

More than 90 women market vendors in Rakiraki and 25 in Tavua celebrated International Women’s Day, and renewed their knowledge and skills of financial management for their market business through the training sessions, Financial First Steps.

International Women’s Day, held on 8 March every year is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities, such as women market vendors at local markets.

Celebration of International Women’s Day this year in Fiji coincided with the training sessions for market vendors in Rakiraki, Tavua and Ba. 

Financial First Steps, the first of five topics to be delivered as part of Continuing Market Business Education  programme under the Markets for Change project, which aims at improving and strengthening the financial literacy and business practice and competency of market vendors especially women market vendors.

The training sessions were conducted in the two vernacular languages, Fijian and Hindi, and attended by women market vendors from both ethnic backgrounds.

The training was organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Ministry of Local Government, Urban Development, Housing and Environment the Town Councils, Market Vendors Associations and the Westpac Banking Corporation.

“Empower women! Whether her family is doing well or not depends on women,” Ms Sharda Devi, 54 year-old market vendor for 25 years at Rakiraki market, shared her message to her co-workers/participants. Her group performed a song about women’s empowerment at the opening of the training session in Rakiraki.

In Rakiraki
Sharda Devi (in red) leads a song about women's empowerment.

“The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was signed by 189 Governments 20 years ago. More women have been elected to public office – about 21 percent of the world’s parliamentarians are women, up from about 11 percent in 1995.We saw good progress in Fiji, which has seven women parliamentarians elected through the election last year,” said UNDP’s Deputy Resident Representative for Fiji, Akiko Fujii while launching the training in Tavua yesterday. She will also deliver the opening speech in Ba today.

“I enjoyed the training and learned new things like saving and budgeting. I’ve started my market business for three months now. I buy vegetables around Tavua and sell them at the market.  I wanted to learn many things for my business, said Titilia Lagivala, 32 year-old market vendor at Tavua market.

A banner on which women market vendors in Rakiraki wrote “Empower Women” in three languages was handed over to participants in Tavua as a symbol of solidarity and encouragement. It will be relayed to women market vendors in Ba, today.  

“You will be the change agents for family, community and society. We hope this training will contribute to economic empowerment of women market vendors,” Ms Fujii concluded.

Prominent women in Tavua, Maria Keavali, District Officer, Temalesi Henfiro, Town Council CEO, Sereani Kafoa, Sub-divisional Health Sister, Talei Tamaka, Sub-divisional Medical Officer and Markereta Taoi, Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, had an opportunity to gather at the training and celebrated the Women’s Day with Ms Fujii.

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 principally funded by the Australian Government.

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