Mary Hotakeni: Cultivating Change in the Market

A Journey of Strength, Persistence and Financial Empowerment

February 20, 2024
Markets 4 Change

The Markets for Change (M4C) project aims to promote gender equality by economically empowering women market vendors in Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Samoa.

Photo: UNDP

Driven by a deep love for her family and a resolute spirit, Mary Hotakeni has carved a path as a successful market vendor for eight years. Juggling the demands of raising five children - two boys and three girls - Mary uses her resourcefulness to ensure they have both a daily breakfast and the opportunity to pursue their education through her fresh vegetable sales.

The Market Journey

Mary’s days at the Honiara Centra Market are filled with hustle and connection. She sources her vegetable supplies from local farmers and skillfully resells them to her customers. But it’s not just about transactions; it’s about building relationships. Through her market business, Mary networks with fellow vendors, local farmers, and customers. She has learned that patience is key—earning money in the market requires persistence and resilience.

The ANZ Money Minded Training

Recently, Mary participated in the ANZ Money Minded training, a program designed to enhance financial literacy and empower individuals to make informed decisions. Despite being a successful market vendor, Mary realized that she lacked proper planning, saving and budgeting skills. She admitted to misusing money, especially on one particular habit: chewing betelnut. The Money Minded training was an eye opener for her, as she realized the amount of money that she could have been saving. 

The Money Minded training is a flexible adult financial education program that builds knowledge, confidence and skills to help people make informed decisions and manage their money. It is ANZ’s flagship program to improve financial wellbeing in the community, supporting ANZ’s purpose to shape a world where people and communities thrive.

Breaking the Betelnut Habit

Betelnut, a common cultural practice in the Solomon Islands, had been draining Mary’s finances. She and her husband both indulged in this habit, spending $50-60 daily. The training opened her eyes to the unnecessary expense. Mary decided it was time for change.

Shared Learnings and Family Support

Back home, Mary shared her newfound knowledge with her husband. Together, they acknowledged that betelnut was not a necessity. They pledged to cut down their spending on this habit to a more reasonable $10 per day. Mary’s husband, who had always supported her market business, now stood by her side in this financial transformation.

Markets 4 Change

Money minded training participants in Solomon Islands.

Photo: UNDP

Impact and Future Prospects

Mary’s story is one of resilience, learning, and shared responsibility. By curbing their betelnut expenses, she and her husband are saving money for their family’s future. Mary’s market business continues to thrive, and she dreams of expanding it further. She envisions her children receiving quality education, breaking free from financial constraints, and building a brighter tomorrow. Mary does not want her children to go through struggle in future, and she hopes to continue inspiring her children to do better.

Mary’s journey demonstrates the power of financial education and the strength of community support. As she tends to her vegetable stall at Honiara Central Market, she cultivates not only fresh produce but also hope and empowerment for other women that are struggling to earn money and support their family, households and community. 

The Markets for Change (M4C) project aims to promote gender equality by economically empowering women market vendors in Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Samoa. This project, which brings together various stakeholders, offers financial literacy training that connects vendors and farmers with essential service providers. This sharing of information, raising awareness, and networking opportunities have the potential to improve the livelihoods of market vendors and their families.

The M4C project is implemented by UN Women in partnership with UNDP and with support from the governments of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. 

For more information, please contact:

Vilisi Veibataki, Markets for Change Project Manager, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji | | +679 3227701