Market Vendor Shobna Verma. Photo: Supplied
Experiencing all sorts of ups and down in working at her stall in Suva municipal market for over 25 years, Shobna Verma has acquired skills and knowledge to carry out her poultry business. Apart from running her own business, Ms. Verma, assistant secretary to the Market Vendors’ Association in Suva, also listens to her colleagues and deals with many challenges that market vendors face in the market.
Market vendors, both women and men, and both new and experienced, often learn business skills by trial and error. Many of them have limited opportunities to expand their business through better financial education, progressive business skills and practices.
The Continuing Market Business Education was launched in October 2014 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with local government, Westpac Bank and UN Women. The aim of the project is to provide space for market vendors to improve and strengthen their financial literacy and business practice, especially targeting women market vendors who make up the majority, from 75-95 percent, of the vendors working in Pacific marketplaces.
Market vendors from all 10 municipal markets in Fiji, Nausori, Suva, Sigatoka, Nadi, Lautoka, Ba, Tavua, Rakiraki and Labasa, participated and have gained basic concepts and practices of accounting as first step. The training programme continues to provide more details of financial management to improve the vendors’ market business. Many of them have put into practice what they learnt from the training such as budgeting, saving and keeping records.
With all her skills and experience, Ms. Verma is still keen to learn to expand her business.
“I attended all training sessions. It was a chance to test and confirm if what I have been practicing in my business was right. But I also learned new knowledge every time I attended the session. I’ve gained a proper way to keep records for my business. I am getting right processes to expand my market business from the training,” said Ms. Verma.
In Suva, the session on ‘keeping your records’ was conducted at the women’s accommodation. Fifteen participants, including Ms. Verma, worked on the Business Record Book for Market Vendors guided by Maryangela Henry, a Westpac trainer. The book, which was formulated by UNDP, the National Centre for Small and Micro Enterprises Development in collaboration with Rakiraki women market vendors in 2012-2013, provided practical record keeping techniques and structure for business.
“We have come a long way from school and have been engaging in business for many years. The training provides us with a good opportunity to renew our skills and knowledge. Learning is important if you want to expand your business. You don’t have to go back to a college, the training is offered right next to your market,” said Ms. Verma. She encourages more market vendors to participate in the training and would like to let others benefit from the programme.
The Continuing Market Business Education is delivered as part of the Markets for Change project , 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.