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Thumbs up for Markets for Change – Timaleti sells to help her daughter through school

Photo: Nuku'aofa Times

By Iliesa Tora

NAVAGA, Fiji-June 27: 12:07pm(Nuku’alofa Times): It’s 3am on Monday morning.

While darkness still surrounds the village of Navaga in the interior of Ba, on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu, 34 year old Timaleti Lewasau is already moving around inside her family house.

She starts spreading out her daughter’s school uniform and then looks for her husband’s farm clothes after that.

Then she gets the kettle to heat up and starts preparing breakfast for the family.

By 5am Timaleti, all ready for the day’s busy schedule ahead, her husband Akuila Kebubu and their 10 year old daughter Aseri Lewasau are having their first meal of the day.

Half an hour later Timaleti is saying goodbye to her husband and daughter as she boards the carrier for the long two hour ride down to Nadi Town with farm supplies that needs to be sold at the market.

Her husband leaves to go to the farm and start his daily chore while the young Aseri leaves for school – a few miles away at the Magodro District School.

It’s a routine the family goes through five days a week, with Akuila and Aseri joining the ride to the market on Saturdays as well.

Timaleti is a vendor at the Nadi Market and a member of the Markets For Change programme.

The programme is part of the UN Women’s Pacific project and is backed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) here in the Pacific.

Some of Mrs Lewasau's products in the market (photo: Nuku'alofa Times)

Some of Mrs Lewasau’s products in the market (photo: Nuku’alofa Times)

Fiji is one of the Pacific countries, apart from Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, where the project has been implemented.

The six-year, multi-country initiative involves more than FJ$18.6 million in total funding, the bulk of which has been provided by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The project is something Timaleti believes has helped her and her family’s income earning capabilities.

Life changer

A native of Korolevu on the Coral Coast of Nadroga, Timaleti says joining the Market For Change (M4C) has helped changed their family’s fortunes.

“I got married after completing Form 6 at Navosa Central High School, having earlier completed my primary education at Roikoro District School, in Korolevu,” she told me on May 11 at her Nadi Market stall, during a field visit we made as part of the joint regional media and communications training I had attended in Nadi.

“When I got married I moved to Navaga because my husband was from there. My husband planted at the farm and I used to help him.

“We had our child and I stayed home to make sure she was well. Now that she is going to school we decided that I should come to the market and sell and earn money to help us. I sold whatever my husband harvested from our farm.”

When I met her at the Nadi Market she was selling dalo or taro that her husband had uprooted the previous afternoon.

The market idea is something they hope will help them get their daughter through school by helping in paying her fees and her school needs.

Timaleti wants her daughter to either become a teacher or an office employee.

“I want to give her the best she can in education so she can do well and continue on to work,” she said with a smile.

“We struggle to ensure that our children get to their future and we are doing this for her.”

Markets for Change

Timaleti says the Markets for Change concept was a “great one” for women who do not have anything else to do to find income.

“This is a great idea and it has helped us,” she said.

Fellow vendor and Nadi Markets for Change Vice President Lena Tui says the project has become a real life-saver for all those who have become a part of the programme.

“We have seen how this has helped our members,” she said.

“It has become a life-saver for most of the vendors and their families.

“We really appreciate all the help that we have been given and the opportunities we have shared.”

During its six-year duration, Markets for Change fesocus on four key areas: Increased voice and participation for market vendors through accessible, inclusive, and representative governance structures within marketplaces.

This will enable markets to grow, as well as strengthening the role and influence of women market vendors.

Improved socio-economic security through assessing and responding to the financial and business needs and interests of market vendors and rural producers.

Gender-responsive local government and market management to ensure decision-making processes are more transparent and accountable, as well as responsive to the needs of vendors.

Accessible and gender-responsive marketplace infrastructure and on-site services through working with local government and market vendors at the conception and construction stages.

 Launch in Fiji

 The concept was launched in Suva on April  29, 2014.

Fiji Vendors and management at 10 Fiji marketplaces now enjoy the benefits from project which has injected more than FJ$8.5 million into ensuring they provide safe, inclusive and non-discriminatory working environments.

The Markets for Change (M4C) project is a key component of the Women’s Economic Empowerment programme at UN Women in the Pacific.

The project’s goal is to ensure that marketplaces in rural and urban areas in Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu are safe, inclusive and non-discriminatory, promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The UN Women says marketplaces are key sites for economic activity and while they may seem small-scale, they are not only central to the livelihoods of many households, they also make a significant contribution to national GDPs.

Vendors, especially women, face numerous day-to-day challenges in their workplaces – the hours are long, the profits are low and violence against women is widely reported.
Between 75 percent (%) and 90% 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.
All of this means that markets are a particularly effective environment for improving women’s economic empowerment and reducing national poverty.

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.

The project capitalises and builds on UN Women’s existing working relationships with local government throughout the Pacific.

In Fiji this includes the councils that govern the 10 participating municipal marketplaces in Suva, Nausori, Sigatoka, Nadi, Namaka, Lautoka, Ba, Tavua, Rakiraki and Labasa.

The UN Women Representative at the Fiji Multi-Country Office, Elzira Sagynbaeva, said at the potential for change is exciting.
“A small infrastructure project like a roof extension may seem insignificant, but it represents the pebble that starts a ripple effect,” she said.

“It not only protects the market vendors themselves from weather extremes and some of the associated health risks, but also protects their stock, which in turn increases their earning potential.

“This provides long-term benefits for their families and their communities. And infrastructure is just one part of the M4C approach.”

Ms Sagynbaeva also pointed out that the project is a great platform for supporting multi-partner initiatives, bringing together local authorities, communities, rural and urban women, civil society organisations, UN agencies and the private sector in an effort to improve the market environment for everyone who uses it, but particularly for women.

The Permanent Secretary for Local Government, Urban Development, Housing and Environment, Samuela Namosimalua spoke at the Fiji launch and pointed out that women are often catalysts for change.
“Evidence suggests that where women have a strong presence in local communities, they are likely to use their weight to prioritise investments in areas that are so critical to human health and development,” he said.

The current M4C project builds on experience gained through the Partners Improving Markets series of pilot projects implemented from 2009-2012, as well as local initiatives and entry points for change identified in country-specific initiatives.

UN Resident Coordinator Osnat Lubrani recently revisited the site of one of the original Partners Improving Markets pilot projects in Rakiraki and was inspired by the changes that had taken place.
“I met women vendors who showed me a record-keeping method that they had developed together to keep track of produce and daily earnings and I think that is one of the great things about this project – it’s the partnership aspect. It’s not about international agencies doing things alone.”

UN Women is now rolling out a workshop based on their “Getting Started Toolkit”, which aims to help market vendors organise themselves in order to work together, identify their priorities and take action to effect positive changes within their marketplaces.

Timaleti and her mates at the Nadi Market are testimonies to what the project has been able to do and is doing for women vendors who sell their produce at the town’s market.

“I have never regretted becoming a member of the project and will continue to do so and also encourage others who might not have to join up and share the benefits,” Timaleti added.

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