Women’s Economic Empowerment

Photo: UN Women
Photo: UN Women/ Steven Maelangono Lilo

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

Women’s Economic Empowerment

Women's Political Empowerment and Leadership

Progress is being made, however. President Hilda Heine was sworn into office in Marshall Islands in 2016 – the first woman elected as President of a Pacific Island country. In March of the same year, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa was appointed Deputy Prime Minister in Samoa following an election, during which temporary special measures were applied at national level for the first time in the Pacific. And in late 2014, Dr Jiko Luveni was appointed Speaker of the Parliament of Fiji - the first female in the history of Fiji to hold this office. Across the region, there has also been a slow but steady increase in the number of women standing for parliament and in the overall number of votes for women candidates... 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