Pacific rural women as agents of change


Vanuatu Press
Participants in UN UN Women’s International Day of Rural Women event in Vanuatu visit Epau village. Photo credit: UN Women

Market vendors in Fiji, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands joined UN Women in celebrating International Day of Rural Women on Wednesday, highlighting the crucial roles rural women play in ensuring the health and wellbeing of their families and communities, as well as their countries’ economic productivity.

Events were held at Sigatoka and Labasa markets in Fiji, Honiara Central Market in Honiara and Epau Ring Road Market in Vanuatu, bringing market vendors and essential service providers together in an effort to share their successes, challenges and vision for the future.

Speaking at the Sigatoka event, UN Women’s Acting Representative at the Fiji Multi-Country Office, Dr Rawwida Baksh, pointed out that participating in economic activities allows women to make positive changes in their own lives as well as in their families and communities, with positive ripple effects for the whole nation.

“International Day of Rural Women is an opportunity to not only highlight the challenges faced by rural women and to raise critical issues for improving their situation, but also, importantly, to recognise and reflect on the knowledge, skills, courage and strength that rural women employ every day, in every corner of the world.”


A market vendor gets a free health check during UN Women’s International Day of Rural Women event in Labasa. Photo credit: UN Women

Brij Bhan Mati has been a market vendor in Labasa, Fiji for the past 12 years and travels 5km to the market six days a week. She shared her story with market vendors, guests and service providers, pointing out that “magic happens” when women come together with collective intentions.

“I always have it in my mind that I can do anything. I am strong, beautiful and compassionate. Why should I be ashamed of myself when I am the happiest lady on Earth?”

In Honiara members of the newly formed Honiara Central Market Vendors’ Association performed a drama about rural women’s many roles, including providing care to their families and working long hours at the market. Association members – wearing their t-shirts from the International Day of Rural Women event – then also joined World Food Day celebrations Thursday morning.

The four markets that held International Day of Rural Women events are part of UN Women’s Markets for Change project, which is supported by the Australian Government and UN Women’s National Committees for Australia and New Zealand. The vast majority of market vendors in the Pacific are women, many of whom come from rural areas, and the six-year initiative focuses on improving their working conditions, earning power and leadership capabilities.

Members of the Honiara Central Market Vendors

Members of the Honiara Central Market Vendors Association perform a drama at UN UN Women’s International Day of Rural Women event in Honiara, Solomon Islands. Photo credit: UN Women

Fiji’s Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation spoke at the Labasa event and had a strong message for market vendors attending and for those around the Pacific.

“I come from a rural area too, from a farm background … a life centered around vegetables. Today I want to say be proud of yourselves, there will be challenges in our days, there will be a lot of challenges in life, especially in the times we are living in. We all face hardships in life but if we give up then our families are going to suffer.”

The first International Day of Rural Women was celebrated on October 15 in order to recognise the role of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.

More information:

Media enquiries:

Ellie van Baaren, Regional communications and media specialist, UN Women, Phone: (+679) 330 1178 ext 125, Email: 

Background Information:

UN Women’s Markets for Change project

UN Women’s Markets for Change project is a key component of its Women’s Economic Empowerment programme. The six-year, multi-country initiative aims to ensure that marketplaces in rural and urban areas in Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are safe, inclusive and non-discriminatory, promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Between 75 per cent and 90 per cent of vendors working at Pacific marketplaces are women and their earnings often make up a significant portion of the incomes of many poor households. Despite this, women are often excluded from market governance and decision-making. M4C works with stakeholders, service providers and the market vendors themselves to: build and support inclusive, effective and representative advocacy groups; deliver appropriate services, training and interventions; ensure women’s voices are heard and taken into account at the decision-making level; and to improve physical infrastructure and operating systems.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has provided AU$10 million to support the implementation of the Markets for Change project.

About UN Women and the Multi-Country Office (MCO) in Fiji

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) was created at the July 2010 United Nations General Assembly. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide. The MCO covers 14 Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs): Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The Fiji MCO works with four key programmes: Women’s Economic Empowerment; Ending Violence Against Women; Advancing Gender Justice in the Pacific; and Increasing Community Resilience through Empowerment of Women to Address Climate Change and Natural Hazards Programme to progress with gender equality and women’s empowerment in the Pacific.