Fiji Ministry for Local Government and UN Women officially open upgraded Vunisea Market


[Joint press release]

New Zealand High Commissioner to Fiji, Her Excellency Charlotte Darlow, UN Women Representative to the Pacific Delphine Serumaga, and Fiji Minister of Housing and Local Government Hon. Maciu Nalumisa meet with Vunisea market vendors at the market's opening. Photo: UN Women

Vunisea, Kadavu, Fiji — To enhance women's access to markets and bolster their economic empowerment, the Fiji Ministry for Local Government, in collaboration with UN Women Markets for Change project and the Suva City Council, officially opened the newly renovated Vunisea market in Kadavu.

The renovation of the Vunisea market was overseen by the Suva City Council, which was assigned the responsibility for managing the central business district, including overseeing development permits and supervising solid waste management.

The market serves eight districts, with many residents travelling to Vunisea when boats arrive or for other government-related businesses since Vunisea serves as the primary government station. Additionally, the market hosts a variety of vendors offering cooked food, vegetables, root crops, canteen services, tailoring, seafood, juice, and kava. Vunisea serves as the hub for most economic activities on the island, as it has a jetty, airstrip, schools, hospital, government stations, home stays and business center.

During the launch event, Minister of Housing and Local Government Honourable Maciu Nalumisa expressed optimism that effective promotion would lead to increased customers and market activity, benefiting both farmers and consumers: “We are enhancing infrastructure that will connect communities to economic opportunities. This market stands as proof of that vision. The importance of farmers’ markets serves as a vital hub for promoting local agricultural produce and providing farmers with a platform to sell their goods,” he said.

The renovations at the Vunisea market comprised replacing the roofing to prevent leaks and better withstand Kadavu's weather conditions, upgrading fixtures, enhancing the fence, installing a new walkway for improved accessibility, reorganising the market layout to reduce hazards, and extending and upgrading booths to accommodate additional vendors and ensure a safe and hygienic environment.

The new extension now caters for up to 150 vendors.

UN Women Multi-Country Office for the Pacific Representative, Delphine Serumaga, emphasised that

rural women play a critical role in local economic development around the world – both in developing and developed countries.

“Participating in economic activities allows women to make positive changes in their own lives and in their communities, with positive rippling effects for the whole nation. Markets are the heart of communities and essential to the livelihoods of many households in Fiji and most vendors are women– which means markets offer a great opportunity for contributing to improving the economic growth situation and empowerment of rural women,” she said.  The Representative thanked the Government of New Zealand for their long-term collaboration with UN Women that has enabled this positive transformation in the Kadavu community.

The construction works were funded by the Ministry for Local Government and the New Zealand’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) through the UN Women Market for Change (M4C) project, with Kadavu being the first maritime site under the project.

The New Zealand High Commissioner to Fiji, her Excellency Charlotte Darlow congratulated all partners engaged who have collaborated for the completion of this milestone.

“A robust and inclusive co-design partnership across all aspects of this project has been instrumental in its success. Along with the refurbished market facility, it is great to have the Vueti Kadavu Market Vendors Association established through this collaboration. Effective market infrastructure and robust market systems underpin long-term sustainability and local empowerment. It is great to be able to support such work in rural and maritime communities. New Zealand is pleased to support the upgrade and extension of the Vunisea market in Kadavu,” said Ms Darlow.

The M4C program invested an estimated Fijian $6 Million on infrastructure upgrades over the last 6 years.

The Markets for Change project promotes gender equality through the economic empowerment of women market vendors in Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. It brings together governments, market vendors and market vendor associations, civil society organisations and UN agencies. It is implemented by UN Women in partnership with UNDP and the Governments of Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

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UN Women’s Markets for Change project

UN Women’s Markets for Change project (M4C) project is a key component of its Women’s Economic Empowerment programme. M4C is a six-year, multi-country initiative that aims to ensure marketplaces in rural and urban areas of Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are safe, inclusive, and non-discriminatory, promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment

A UN Women project, M4C is principally funded by the Australian Government, and since 2018 the project partnership has expanded to include funding support from the Government of Canada. UNDP is a project partner.

Between 75-90 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.