Market vendors working collectively to bring about positive change at Honiara Central Market - Solomon Star News

Market vendors working collectively to bring about positive change at Honiara Central Market

22 April 2015

Market vendors from the Honiara Central Market Vendors’ Association (HCMVA) will work together to make the Honiara Central Market a safe, healthy and economically conducive workplace for all by strengthening communication with Market Management, representing market vendors’ needs and interests and identifying opportunities for market vendors to learn and develop new skills.

The market vendors – 30 women and three men – developed the plan at a three-day workshop held in Honiara last week, reinforcing the importance of strengthening the roles that market vendors play in marketplace decision-making.

The Information Sharing and Strategic Planning workshop was organised by UN Women under the Markets for Change (M4C) project, which is principally funded by the Australian Government. Participants included the HCMVA Executive Committee and Sector Leaders who were elected in 2014 following the HCMVA’s official registration and opening; the association itself was formed as a result of an initial series of Markets for Change workshops on getting organised.

Participants were asked to identify what changes they would like to see in the marketplace, before discussing the steps that need to be taken and the challenges that need to be addressed if those changes are to be realised.

“Our thinking is big but the [workshop] paper is small,” exclaimed one participant at the beginning of the exercise. Together, the market vendors identified a number of issues that need attention, including: the importance of organisation inside the market house; effective waste management systems and better hygiene practices; improved water supply and drainage; clean facilities that cater to all vendors including those who travel from far away and those who may need to bring their children to work; responsible and trustworthy security; and effective communication practices between market management and vendors.

“The plan that resulted provides the HCMVA with a strong foundation for working more effectively with market management in order to support market improvements that address the real challenges of providing a safe, well managed, and welcoming market.”

An information exchange on the first day also provided market vendors with an inspiring opportunity to hear from women’s empowerment associations such as West AreAre Rokotanikeni Association, support organisations including Development Services Exchange, and government representatives, such as Ministry of Women, Youth, Children, and Family Affairs, and the Honiara City Council Women’s Development Desk.

Far too often, market vendors, especially women, miss out on accessing information and services because they cannot afford to leave their market stalls and earning opportunities. Participants described the information sharing session as a mind-opening experience and extremely valuable for the young but growing association.

“When I heard that Government representatives were coming I was frightened,” one participant explained.

“But when they came and shared stories with us, I realised that they are people for us to be friends with.

“Sometimes we are frightened to talk; a lot of us have had limited schooling,” another participant said. “This training has opened our minds. When we sit down in the market every day, it is hard to find opportunities to learn and open our minds.”

UN Women’s Markets for Change project works to ensure that marketplaces in Solomon Islands are safe, inclusive and non-discriminatory, promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. It officially launched in Solomon Islands in May 2014 and will run for six years.