Woman market vendor from Papua New Guinea makes waves at CSW 68

Date:

Author: Reuben Tabel

Photo: UN Women/Elly Kale
Serah Maim Nalie preparing for her presentation during the CSW68 in New York. Photo: UN Women/Elly Kale

Taking a leading role in advocating for gender equality and women’s empowerment was and have not been an easy role for many Papua New Guineans, especially for women. Some have been criticized, mocked and discriminated against. Others have been rejected by their family members, especially husbands, while others still have faced violence and harassment and public shaming while engaging in advocacy. Cultural and traditional factors, have always been the excuses for a lack of attention and willingness from men to stand up and support women’s cause. However, for many women, being resilient and breaking the glass ceiling is the motivation that drives them out of their comfort zones.

One such woman is Serah Maim Nalie who hails from Wewak in East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG). She is a remarkable figure in her community, embodying the roles of President of Wewak Market, Community Educator, Women’s Representative, and an active church member. Her vision extends to elevating women market vendors from the informal to the formal sector economy, fostering their economic empowerment.

Additionally, she runs a tailoring business, sharing her expertise with other women, emphasizing the power of collective efforts. Nalie’s holistic approach to well-being, integrating physical, mental and spiritual support, underscores her commitment to the community’s overall health and prosperity.

Ms. Nalie was part of the PNG Delegation that travelled to New York to attend the sixty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68) from 11–22 March. Representatives of Member States, UN entities and accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all regions of the world convened, including the PNG Delegation, which was led by Minister for Community Development Youth and Religion H.E. Jason Peter and the Department Secretary Jerry Ubase.

 

“I was confident to speak. I know that was the opportunity for me as a woman leader to be the voice representing other women market vendors in PNG. I also [asked] donors and stakeholders to support and fund more training to build capacities for women and young girls, especially in the economic empowerment space ...”
— Serah Maim Nalie, President of Wewak Market, Papua New Guinea.

Nalie represented PNG women, especially informal market vendors and market associations and spoke at a CSW side event under the theme “collective action to drive gender equality and empowerment in pacific markets”. It was organized by UN Women in collaboration with the UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office and supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Papua New Guinea, Asian Development Bank in the Pacific, Australian Aid, World Bank, Solomon Islands Government and the Representative of the Government of PNG in New York.

There, Nalie shared insights on the efforts of the Wewak Market United Vendors Association (WMUVA) and its positive impact on women and their communities. The association was founded in 2018 and represents 700 women market vendors in the Wewak Market. These vendors specialize in traditional arts and crafts, fisheries, garden produce, handmade clothing (such as Meri blouses and tropical shirts), as well as spices, oils and herbs.

Nalie said it was a privilege to represent women and speak at such an important event:

“I was confident to speak. I know that was the opportunity for me as a woman leader to be the voice representing other women market vendors in PNG. I also [asked] donors and stakeholders to support and fund more training to build capacities for women and young girls, especially in the economic empowerment space, such as markets and small and medium-sized enterprises. I am grateful to UN Women for empowering me to be the best and be a woman with confidence, strength and power. It was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime experience to speak at such a high-level meeting far away from home,” she said.

Nalie said that participating as a panelist in a discussion and receiving questions from participants, including audiences, was something she had never experienced before. However, she felt confident responding to questions with support from the Secretary for the Department for Community Development Youth and Religion.

As part of the panel discussion, Nalie shared her insights on the benefits of the markets for women’s empowerment and the transformations they have witnessed with the support of UN Women.

Nalie said the trip has encouraged her to continue advocating for women’s economic empowerment and to help transform Wewak Market Vendors Association into a safer and more secure market for women and girls through advocacy, open dialogue and colloboration with partners and stakeholders including working closely with the Wewak District and Provincial Government.