Caption:Sigatoka market vendors with with Special Administrator Jay Whyte.Photo:SUPPLIED
Around 80 market vendors in Ba and Rakiraki received training from UN Women at a series of workshops earlier this month, while a further 26 from Sigatoka were recognised for their active participation in the workshops held at their market at a ceremony on December 16.
The ?Getting Started? workshops are part of UN Women?s Markets for Change (M4C) project, a six-year initiative principally funded by the Australian Government. In Fiji, the project works with nine municipal councils in 10 market sites across Fiji in an effort to help ensure they are safe, inclusive and non-discriminatory, promoting gender equality and women?s empowerment.
A key focus of the workshops is to form and strengthen market vendor associations, which are important avenues for vendors to engage in marketplace decision-making and ultimately to contribute to improvements to market conditions.
Despite the fact that women usually constitute a majority of market vendors in the Pacific, they are often excluded from opportunities to participate in decision-making processes. Women often face a number of challenges when trying to take up leadership positions, including long-standing male office holders with established networks and relationships, as well as a perception that men are more credible leaders.
Sigatoka and Ba Markets currently do not have market vendor associations, and while women are well represented amongst the members of Rakiraki?s association, the key positions are held by men. After the workshops in Sigatoka, market vendors have been working towards establishing their own association.
To help address some of these barriers, the ?Getting Started? workshops focus on how vendors can build and maintain democratic organisations that effectively represent all their members. This includes skills sharing on recruitment, constitution strengthening, choosing the right kind of leaders, and processes to ensure men and women equally participate in decision-making.
Amalaini Kula took part in the Sigatoka ?Getting Started? workshops in August and received her certificate yesterday. She has been a vendor for the past three years and says it is a privilege.
?A lot of times people look down on us market vendors, but we are still thankful that we are able to sell from the market and take some cash home for our family to survive.?
She adds that she has personally seen the many changes that have taken place at the market and that the training gave the vendors an opportunity to learn how they can raise issues with market management.
Special Administrator Jay Whyte spoke at the Sigatoka ceremony and presented the certificates to the vendors.
?It?s been exciting for me to see the development that has taken place here in recent years in ensuring the market vendors are provided opportunities to achieve gender, social, economic and financial advancement,? he says.
The M4C Fiji Project Management Committee also gathered for the second time in Suva on December 17, with senior representatives from the project?s prime stakeholders meeting with the Markets for
Change team to go through the 2015 work plan.
UN Women?s M4C project launched in Fiji in March 2014 and also covers a number of urban and rural markets in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.
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