Stakeholders representing marketplaces across Melanesia have found that despite differences they also experience many of the same challenges.
Last week they met to share solutions to those challenges and make their markets safer, more inclusive and non-discriminatory.
Among those at the UN Women, Markets for Change (M4C) regional stakeholder roundtable were representatives from Honiara Central Market and Auki Market. They were among 32 participants from Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, including UN Women and United Nations Development Program staff, who met at Nadi’s Tokatoka Resort on November 3 and 4.
Supported by the Australian Government through the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development Initiative, as well as UN Women’s National Committees in Australia and New Zealand, the M4C project recognises that marketplaces are key sites for women’s economic empowerment and poverty reduction.
The project, which launched in 2014, works with market vendors, local government and stakeholders across Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji to bring about positive and lasting change in the lives of market vendors–75-90% of whom are women.
This includes specific interventions to improve market operations, infrastructure and governance as well as interventions to increase market vendors’ access to economic opportunities and participation in decision making.
One of the key areas of the M4C project is working with local government and market management to build capacity. It also drafts, adopts and implements bylaws, policies and budgets that meet the specific needs and interests of women and men market vendors.
Moses Kaukui, Treasurer of Honiara City Council said that when it came to the physical infrastructure and operating systems, hearing from the other markets struck a chord. “We are not alone. You talk about security issues; we have issues with security too. You talk about problems with infrastructure; we have infrastructure problems too. I take this as a motivating factor for me instead of being a negative. We will have to move on together and carefully plan.”
Presentations from market representatives reminded director of Local Authorities from Vanuatu, Cherol Alanavibori, of how important markets are in Pacific communities. “Markets are a common place where people come together, congregate, meet and greet. In Vanuatu they are always in the centre of the town. There is therefore a lot of activity happening there, making markets a hub for development and for information.”
Fiji’s Director for Local Government, Iliana Maiesia, said: “It got me thinking about how we are going to go out and reach the vendors who come to the market, but also the farmers and how they bring their produce in the market. This is neglected.”
UN Women’s Officer in Charge and Deputy Representative at the Fiji Multi-Country Office, Nicolas Burniat, said he was struck by the level of enthusiasm and commitment from city councils. “Hearing presentations from city councils about their plans and goals for markets is a reminder of what this project is about – making real changes for Pacific women and their communities. It was great to have city council representatives from all three countries in one room, and I know the discussions will have sparked some long-lasting relationships that will ensure they continue to share experiences as we move into year two of the Markets for Change program.”
Roundtable participants also attended field trips to see some of UN Women-funded projects at Lautoka and Nadi municipal markets.
The M4C project will run for six years; ideas shared at this first stakeholder roundtable meeting will be used to inform project implementation plans and strategies. A commitment was also expressed by all participants for strengthened south-south dialogue across M4C project stakeholders.