Investing in the resilience of rural women in the wake of COVID 19



[Joint Press Release]

Kadavu, Fiji — Women market vendors trading at Vunisea Market on Kadavu celebrated for the first time, the International Day of Rural Women (IDRW). They were joined by H.E. Jonathan Curr, the New Zealand High Commissioner to Fiji, whose Government’s commitment through the New Zealand-United Nations (UN) Partnership enabled the UN Women Markets for Change project to extend the project to Vunisea Market, Kadavu.

Happy vendor farmers at Vunisea Market on Monday. Photo: UN Women/Iliesa Ravuci
Happy vendor farmers at Vunisea Market on Monday. Photo: UN Women/Iliesa Ravuci

The NZ High Commissioner, representatives of the Fijian Government, the UN Women in the Pacific Representative, the local business community, sister UN agencies and other stakeholders heard from Setaita Bainivalu and Silipa Ovaova, who shared their experiences of the multiple impacts of both TC Harold, and COVID 19 that severely impacted their livelihoods. This year’s IDRW theme of “Building rural women’s resilience in the wake of COVID 19” strongly resonated with the island community, which was heavily impacted by the dual crises.

“This is the first time for me as a market vendor in Kadavu to be part of this event and experience a celebration dedicated especially for rural women,” Ms Bainivalu said. “This event will create more visibility to our contribution as market vendors on the island. We look forward to training that will make us better businesswomen and we cannot thank you enough for thinking of us in this way.”

Speaking in Vunisea, Mr Curr said his Government was delighted to be part of the expansion of the Markets for Change project. “The vendors here at Vunisea market join an empowered, entrepreneurial, skilful community of women in other Markets for Change sites – throughout Fiji, and across the wider Pacific. It is a privilege to witness in person the positive impact that these markets have on women’s livelihood, benefiting not only themselves but also their families and communities,” Mr Curr said.

UN agencies jointly, under the Markets for Change project and in partnership with the Ministry of Local Government and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), distributed temporary shelters (tents), seeds, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) supplies and farming tools to support the island community’s ongoing efforts to respond to the dual crises of the cyclone and the pandemic. UNDP facilitated financial learning sessions with market vendors through a financial “fair”.

“Australia has had a long-standing commitment to supporting the rebuilding of markets across Fiji since the devastating TC Winston. With women comprising over 80% of vendors in Fiji, we believe that markets are an important place to empower women, especially those living in rural areas,” H.E. John Feakes, the Australian High Commissioner said.

Silivia Ovaova of Vukavu Village in Kadavu, who has been selling at the Vunisea Market for four years, was grateful for the tents in particular. “I’m happy that we will now have ample space to sell our produce with the additional new tents. These tents will help us continue to practice social distancing, while still being sheltered from the hot sun and rain.”

Sandra Bernklau, Representative of UN Women in the Pacific acknowledged the vital and varying role women played in their homes and communities, as farmers, workers, entrepreneurs, community leaders and key actors in crisis situations.

“It is important to keep markets open as critical spaces for women’s livelihoods. Disasters such as TC Harold and pandemics such as COVID 19 roll back economic and social progress, including gains in gender equality. It is critical to support the important role of rural women in development, and to recognize their contributions to economic development at the community and national level, and to support these efforts through improved and safe working conditions in markets. That is why we are coming together in recognition of the International Day of Rural Women, in supporting improved water and sanitation, food handling safety, improved shelter and training in financial literacy,” Ms Bernklau said.

The Markets for Change project is able to engage with the Vunisea Market with support from the New Zealand Government, through the NZ-UN Pacific Partnership. The Partnership has allocated funds for ensuring that markets respond to COVID 19. Reaching Kadavu through the Vunisea Market will benefit rural farmers and market vendors through training in financial literacy and agricultural approaches that take into account disaster resilience.

A UN Women project, M4C is principally funded by the Government of Australia’s Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (Pacific Women) program and has expanded to include funding support from the Government of Canada & more recently, the New Zealand Government. UNDP is an implementing partner. UN Women’s M4C Project is a multi-year, multi-country initiative that aims to have marketplaces in rural and urban areas of Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu that are safe, inclusive, and non-discriminatory, promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

For more information, please contact:

Iliesa Ravuci
Communication and Monitoring & Evaluation Officer M4C Project
Tel: 3301178 ext 115 l Cell: +679 9766255 l Email: