Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme

Photo: UN Women 
Photo: UN Women/Alethia Jimenez

Participating in economic activities allows women to make positive changes in their own lives and communities, with a ripple effect that benefits national economic development. Gendered norms, behaviours and social relations alongside discriminatory laws and policies have played a big part in disadvantaging women economically.

Pacific populations are mainly rural and rely largely on subsistence activities; women dominate informal economic activities. For example, women perform a greater share of food growing and in-shore fishing activities, which limits their availability for formal employment. While women are not equally represented in the formal economy, they dominate many small-scale market operations.

UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office (MCO) recognises that: to advance women’s economic empowerment, our work must address the intersections between women’s economic empowerment, safety and discrimination, leadership, governance and participation, disaster preparedness and livelihoods. Marketplaces are a critical space in which these interrelated factors come into play.

Key project: Markets for Change (M4C)

“I found confidence. Now I can stand up, I can raise my voice, and speak on behalf of other women.”

Sofia Talei, President of Suva United Market Vendors Association, Fiji

“When I get my daily income, I will divide the money… school fees, bus fares… and part will be to save. Before the training I never practiced this.”

Joyce Galafoa, Market Vendor, Solomon Islands

Between 75 per cent and 90 per cent of all market vendors in the Pacific are women; hours are long, profits are often low, and working conditions difficult. Earnings make up a significant portion of the incomes of many poor households.

Through its Markets for Change (M4C) Project, UN Women works to ensure that marketplaces in Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are safe, inclusive and non-discriminatory, promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The project supports the creation and strengthening of representative marketplace groups, which in turn enhances the roles and influence of women market vendors. The project also focuses on boosting financial literacy amongst vendors and market vendor associations, and is supporting greater access to financial services and improved agricultural skills.

Markets for Change is principally funded by the Australian Government, and since 2018 the project partnership has expanded to include funding support from Canada. The United Nations Development Programme is a key implementing partner.

M4C focuses on four areas:

  • Representative marketplace groups
  • Socio-economic security of market vendors
  • Local government and market management
  • Physical infrastructure and operating systems

Find out more about the WEE programme

Featured Publication

Fiji WEE

Women's Economic Empowerment

M4C works to strengthen the accountability and capacity of market management and municipal and provincial governments through the provision of training and technical support, laying the groundwork for local government to employ gender-responsive policies, procedures and decision-making processes that are receptive to the needs of market vendors, especially women. The project also has an infrastructure component, which focuses on improving onsite services at the design and construction phases to ensure that marketplaces are safe and more resilient to environmental shocks such as extreme weather events... Read more

Featured publication

Market for Change Market Profiles


A snapshot of the Markets for Change project and the markets it works in across Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. As a group of small and geographically dispersed countries far from international markets, economic growth across the Pacific region is often uneven. While the... more

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