Cash and Confidence for Women Market Vendors

women
Kamla, a market vendor in Rakiraki has seen her savings increase to USD$5-10.00 per week.

Kamla and Seravina are part of a group of women market vendors in the small rural town of Rakiraki in Fiji who are now doing business differently.

Kamla has started adding value to products for sale and increased her income. Seravina has used newly acquired financial management skills to provide her daughter with tertiary education and has mobilised other women market vendors to form a savings group. Both were part of a capacity building programme targeting women market vendors to strengthen their economic security and rights.

Highlights

  • 300 women market vendors have benefited from the project
  • The Rakiraki Town Council has seen an increase in its income as vendors are able to pay their fees promptly
  • Women market vendors are more involved in the governance of the market

A UN research compiled the socio-economic profile of market vendors in Fiji, showing that about 80 percent of market vendors in the western part of Fiji are women, with average weekly incomes ranging from US$71-141.

Approximately 60 percent of market vendors grow their own produce for sale and mainly sell vegetables, root crops and fruits.  The vendors work 10-hour days, six days a week.  Vendor incomes in Fiji fluctuate quite a bit depending on several factors like the supply and quality of produce.

The Strengthening Women’s Economic Security and Rights: Capacity Building Programme for Women Market Vendors benefited 300 women and is facilitated by UNDP in partnership with the Rakiraki Town Council and the local Market Vendors Association. The Project had a multi-pronged approach – improving the Town Council’s income generation and management capacity, working with women market vendors to improve their business skills and strengthening the governance of the market vendors association.  Improving the governance of the Association was important for ensuring the views of women are heard and presented as priorities to the Council and more women are involved in leading and managing the Association.

Women market vendors attended a nine-week training programme starting in March, 2012. The training, conveniently structured into one and half hour long sessions to fit around their schedules was delivered in the English and vernacular languages. It covered areas such as business skills, budgeting, savings and women’s rights. 

“I have only attended school up to Class 5. This training was a great help to me as I did not know anything about running a business or financial management before,” said 56-year-old Seravina, speaking in the iTaukei language.

 Seravina
Seravina has provided tertiary school education to her daughter with her earnings from the market

Seravina lives in a small village, an hour’s drive from the Rakiraki market. She pays US$5 one way to reach the market where she sells root crops and bananas.

“Through the training, I have been able to manage my income and pay US$1600 for my daughter’s tertiary education. I am very proud of this!”

Seravina is also a key mobiliser of a local women market vendor’s savings group.

“The members of the savings group were all part of the training. I have created this group so that women can save money on a regular basis through the business skills we learnt.”

A bonus for Seravina from the training is her new found confidence, demonstrated by the ease with which she addresses public meetings and mobilises women market venders.

Fifty-three-year-old Kamla supports her two children and retired husband from her earnings at the market. She admits that she has seen an increase in her earnings since she has started presenting vegetables differently. She is now able to save between US$5-10 per week.

“Before the training, when I sold jackfruit, I would sell it in pieces. One large jackfruit could give me four pieces. Now, I prepare the jackfruit differently. I cut the larger piece into smaller pieces, ready for cooking. I have seen that this has increased my sales,” said Kamla.

Jackfruit is a popular vegetable used for curries by the local population. The flesh of the freshly cut vegetable is sticky and requires special attention and time for preparation before cooking.

Kamla buys fruits and vegetables for sale and also uses produce from her backyard garden.

Speaking about what had changed at the market since the start of the programme, she is quick to point out that the market is cleaner and has provided additional space for vendors like her who used to sell outside the market building, under the old mango tree. She also adds that the market now provides clean lavatory facilities, managed by a janitor which is welcome change from the situation before.

Seini Raiko, the Special Administrator of the Rakiraki Town Council, is pleased with the changes being brought about through the programme.

“The Rakiraki Town Council has seen an increase in its income. This is because market vendors are no longer lagging behind on their payment. The women market vendors are also enthusiastic about their businesses. The presentation of their stalls and their customer interaction has changed. Many have started saving and all have shown more commitment to being involved in the running of the local market vendors association,” said Ms Raiko.

The success of the project in Rakiraki has generated much interest in other town councils in Fiji. UNDP will replicate this project in two other rural markets in Fiji. The project is part of a larger Millennium Markets project run by UNDP through its Pacific Centre in partnership with UN Women.