The Honorable Minister for Education, Heritage, Arts and Local Government, Ms Premila Kumar
Ministry of Local Government, Permenant Secretary
Director of Local Government, Ms Bindula Devi
UN Women Women Economic Empowerment Specialist, Ms Preeya Ieli
The Director Administration and Operations – Suva City Council – Mr Aaron Philips
The Nausori Market Vendors Association Representatives
The Suva United Market Vendors Association Representatives
Ladies and gentlemen,
Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
It is an honor and a privilege to be part of this important event. The hand-over of equipment to support online learnings or trainings for urban and rural market vendors and farmers as part of the Markets for Change Project.
Firstly, I would like to commend the Fijian Government, project partners and donors for their commitment and dedication during this COVID-19 pandemic, in ensuring that the vulnerable groups such as women, youth, and people living with disabilities are continuously supported during this “new normal” and unprecedented times.
The Fijian government have been quick to implement public health emergency measures including lockdowns, curfews and physical distancing, travel restrictions, and international border closures to prevent imported cases of the virus. This has helped to averse the spreading of the virus in the country.
The Pacific region, which characterised by a strong dependence on tourism revenues has however suffered immensely from border closures and lockdowns, with knock-on effects for overall economic activity, supply chain disruptions and job losses there by dampening economic activity and consumer spending with adverse repercussions on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable and marginalised groups. For example, women and other vulnerable groups typically employed in the tourism sector or the informal economy are most at risk of a reduction and loss of income, and typically lack access to social protection and safety nets. (Source: Socio-economic Impact Assessment of Covid 19 in Fiji Report, 2020)
It is within this context that we applaud the Fijian Government for taking the lead in paving the way for partners and communities to resume normal operations. It is admirable that despite the challenges and setbacks, the Fijian government continues to collaborate with international organisations, non-governmental organisations, partners, donors, and communities to restore normalcy to Fiji.
Secondly, the Fijian Government through the Ministry of Local Government and Municipalities, should be commended for playing a crucial role in ensuring that the urban and rural areas within its municipalities have a constant supply of fresh food such as fruits and vegetables during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the Markets for Change Project, UNDP has been engaged in the implementation of the project to deliver outcome 2 activities since 2014, covering Fiji, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. Outcome two, focuses on improving the socioeconomic security of female market vendors through better financial competencies and record keeping, allowing them to better leverage business and financial access opportunities. The interventions were further expanded to ensuring farmers are supported to improve agriculture productivity through product development and sales.
This morning's event marks the handing over of 20 projectors, 20 pull-up screens and 20 hard drives to the Ministry of Local Government, that is directly responsible for the management and operation of Municipal markets. This support we believe will contribute positively towards the implementation of inclusive growth policies and strategies aimed at increasing financial inclusion and reaching out to vulnerable groups such as rural women market vendors and farmers.
The support will directly benefit close to 3,000 to 4,000 urban and rural market vendors and farmers, 75% of whom are women farmers that trade at the 13 municipal markets around the central, western, northern and eastern provinces of Fiji.
Ladies and gentlemen, Fiji will not reach its full potential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals unless all partners, donors, including UN agencies, and communities fully engage and invest their resources (financial and human resources, and capacity development of the vulnerable communities.
Covid 19 has potentially reversed several of the progress we have made in Sustainable Development Goals. UNDP is fully committed to support the government of Fiji and work with partners to accelerate progress by investing on:
- Financial and Human Resources
- Capacity development
- Knowledge management
In closing, UNDP, in collaboration with UNWomen, as lead agency in the Markets for Change Project, looks forward to working with the Government and partners to build on progress towards phase 2 of the M4C Project, which will commence next year.
Thank you and vinaka vakalevu.