United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) Chief Technical Adviser in the Pacific, Ms Elizabeth Cox, was the keynote speaker at a breakfast celebration, hosted by the Auckland branch of UN Women New Zealand National Committee, in honor of International Women’s Day (IWD), 8 March.
The theme for this year’s IWD is “Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty”, and the events planned by the Auckland branch of UN Women New Zealand were for the express purpose of fundraising for UN Women Pacific’s Partners Improving Markets project in Solomon Islands.
Across Melanesia, market trading is dominated by women and is the primary avenue available for earning cash incomes for women, their families and communities. Although women market vendors make significant contributions to their families and communities, their work is often devalued and minimized.
According to the Fresh Produce Development Agency, women market vendors are vulnerable to serious health risks due to their exposure to harsh weather conditions and often unsanitary facilities. Women market vendors are also frequently victims of violence and harassment by customers and others in the market vicinity.
UN Women’s Partners Improving Markets project focuses on women’s empowerment and the increase in incomes of women and girls trading from their homes as well as community, district, provincial and city markets. The project is based on a scan of 50 markets across Melanesia in 2008/9 and piloting of a range of initiatives to transform the planning, financing and governance for markets.
Guests of the IWD breakfast celebration included approximately 200 people from local dignitaries, women's organisations and girls from senior schools in the region.
The UN Women National Committee in New Zealand supports several projects in the Pacific region and all surplus money from the function will be given to this work.