Women’s Economic Empowerment

Market vendor Kesaia Sera sells produce at Suva Market
Market vendor Kesaia Sera sells produce at Suva Market. Photo: UN Women/Atunaisa Drivatiyawe

Participating in economic activities empowers 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 Pacific recognizes 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)

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

The project, which is in Phase II of operation (2022 – 2026), 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.

M4C focuses on ensuring:

  • inclusive, effective and representative marketplace groups are created and grow, further enabled and recognized.
  • the socioeconomic security of women market vendors is improved.
  • local governments, market management are, and other decision-makers are gender responsive, effective and accountable to women market vendors.
  • physical market structures and operating systems are improved to make markets more gender-responsive, safer, more accessible, sustainable and resilient to disaster risks and climate change.

M4C brings together governments, market vendors and market vendor associations (MVAs), civil society organizations and UN agencies. M4C is implemented by UN Women in partnership with UNDP and the Governments of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

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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

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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