UN Women helps market vendors in Papua New Guinea rebound from the pandemic


Authors: Aidah Nanyonjo and Goodshow Bote

Lilian and Joseph Laki pose at her stall in Wewak market in August 2020. Photo: UN Women/Goodshow Bote
Lilian and Joseph Laki pose at her stall in Wewak market in August 2020. Photo: UN Women/Goodshow Bote

Wewak, Papua New Guinea — Lilian Laki is a tailor in Wewak market in East Sepik Province,Papua New Guinea, and her family’s dreams are a step closer to reality thanks to a little help from UN Women.Laki is one of the 311 women vendors who benefited from UN Women’s Markets, Economic Recovery and Inclusionprogramme. The programme provided the women with training in textile designing and sewing, baking and food handling,and linked them to micro-banks for savings and affordable finance.

Lilian Laki, 29, and her husband Joseph had always dreamed of starting a business building houses for leasing, buttheir income was too limited to get things started. The couple have a 10-year-old boy, and Joseph Laki’s workat a company wasn’t enough to support the family and at the same time invest in the housing project. And nowhe is out of work.

Although Lilian Laki had a sewing machine, she could not start a sewing business because she had never received anyformal training in tailoring and design. So she attended a 5-day training organized by UN Women in sewing meriblouses – the national dress for women in Papua New Guinea -- and making tie and dye materials. She learnednew designs that were different from those already on the market. She also attended a five-day training in financialliteracy where she learned about bookkeeping and saving money.

After the training, Lilian Laki started sewing the new design of meri blouse. She found it easy to sew, and she couldsew 15 blouses a day. She later added beads to the blouses. Her first batch of 20 blouses sold out within a week.

Lilian Laki now keeps records for her business. She keeps track of her profits and knows which designs she shouldmake more of. Her husband has also adopted the bookkeeping skills, keeping track of the money they are puttingtowards their building project.

The improvement in income has improved the couple’s relationship.

“We work together as a family, and support each other,” Lilian Laki said. “Sometimes he helps mewith stocking the materials I use to make the meri blouses. We are grateful to UN Women for giving us an opportunityto realize our dream.”

The Government of Australia funds the UN Women programme, which works in 12 markets in the country.

The first phase of the programme ran from June 2020 to June 2021; the second phase is now in progress. The firstphase reduced COVID-19 infection risks for vendors, people with disabilities and customers in the market andimproved safety and sanitation there; restored the vendors’ livelihoods to pre-pandemic levels; and createdopenings for women vendors and people with disabilities to have a say in market management and decision-making.