Markets for Change Project kicks off in Suva bringing confidence to women vendors as they strive for a voice in market management
Following the launch of the UN Women Markets for Change (M4C) project in April 2014, staff in Suva are working in partnership with local councils to conduct a series of three workshops for Suva market vendors to create awareness around the importance of market vendor associations and equip them with necessary knowledge to elect a representative for the Suva United Market Vendors Association.
Market vendors take part in Getting Started Workshop.
Photo credit: UN Women/Saleshni Chaudhary
The first Getting Started workshop was held 29 April after the M4C launch and provided vendors with an overview of the project, as well as an introduction to the concept of market associations. ‘Getting Started Toolkit’ is designed as a guide to enable vendors to work together and take united action to make positive changes in market management. The toolkit guides vendors through the steps needed to build and maintain a representative, democratic market vendors association.
In the second workshop today, participants, close to 50 market vendors, discussed the concepts highlighted in the toolkit. The importance of collectivity was emphasized to ensure that vendors understand the need to promote an organised and representative market association, which is not only inclusive of vendors of differing genders, ages, ethnicity and economic background, but also one that takes into consideration those who are not actively part of the association. During the second workshop leaders were identified by individual sections of the Suva market as focal points for a mapping exercise which is part of the toolkit that is being rolled out by UN Women. The mapping exercise enables each vendor within each market section to profile their respective sections and identify issues and recommendations which will enable them to work better with the market management and their association.
The workshop provided a safe, open environment for women and men vendors to discuss their issues openly without the fear of victimisation.
Workshop participant, Anisa Marama has been a market vendor for more than 50 years. At 78 years of age, she has a wealth of experience and knowledge about the market and local economic environment. She spoke of her happiness to be part of the workshop and to see all the positive changes taking place to empower women market vendors. “I started selling in the market from 1960 and I am so happy to see the changes that are currently taking place to improve the lives of women market vendors. I was so naïve and innocent for 54 years, I did not know there is a market bylaw which safe guards us vendors. Thank you UN Women for providing free workshops to increase our understanding and knowledge on importance of working together, to decide our priorities and take action together to make positive changes so our lives can be better,” she said.
John Pratap, holds an executive position in the Suva market association and has been a vendor for a decade. Mr Pratap enjoyed being able to participate in the workshop as he feels he now has a better understanding of the women market vendor’s needs and can work with the association to address them. “I now have a better understanding why my fellow women market vendors should be included in the decision making process. Being an executive member of the Suva United Market Vendors Association it never occurred to me the difficulties the women vendors are facing for years. Now I will definitely assist them in whichever way possible, so their lives can be better,” he commented.
The workshop also provided market vendors, especially women vendors, an opportunity to get to know the members of the Suva United Market Vendors Association, which is not only vital in highlighting current market processes, but also allowed vendors and management to take the first step in creating ongoing dialogues.
Market vendor and workshop participant Titilia Seruwai said before attending the workshop she didn’t know where to turn when there was an issue. Now however, she commented that, “the workshop has provided me a chance to get to know the executive members of the Suva United Market Vendors Association, who are responsible to solve my problems and resolve any issues I might have with other vendors in an amicable manner… it is very important for me to participate in the decision making process and choose the right kind of leader”.