Advancing gender equality through innovation and digital technology

March 2, 2023

Official handover of equipment by Fiji's Assistant Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Sashi Kiran, and UNDP Resident Representative a.i. Dawn Del Rio.

Photo: UNDP

Suva, Fiji – Women market vendors gathered for an early celebration of International Women’s Day focusing on the theme, “DigitAll- Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality.” The celebration was officiated by Fiji Government’s Assistant Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Ms. Sashi Kiran at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji.

The celebration recognizes the importance of providing women and other marginalized groups access to technology, which would support more creative solutions that meet women’s needs and promote gender equality. 

The celebration also included the handing-over of equipment such as laptops, scanners, and printers that will directly benefit between 3,000 to 4,000 urban and rural market vendors and farmers, 75 percent of whom are women farmers that trade at the 13 municipal markets around the central, western, northern, and eastern provinces of Fiji, as well as 2 municipal markets and 5 ring road markets in Vanuatu, and 2 municipal markets in Solomon Islands. This is part of the Markets for Change Project implemented by UN Women in partnership with UNDP with support from the Governments of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.  

The Assistant Minister Kiran highlighted that women make up 49.3 percent of Fiji’s total population, and if provided with the right support and empowerment, women’s participation in the economy would stimulate wider benefits for Fiji.

Fiji Government’s Assistant Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Ms. Sashi Kiran.

UNDP Resident Representative a.i., Dawn Del Rio

“There are gains in poverty reduction, environmental sustainability, innovation, and decision-making on a wider set of issues. Societies with greater gender equality not only offer better socioeconomic opportunities for women, but also tend to grow faster and more equitably. We women are the biggest untapped resource when it comes to our ambitious of driving development or enjoying sustainable growth,” said Kiran.

“I thank UN Women and UNDP on activities focused on improved socio-economic security of women market vendors. The Ministry value all our partnership with development partners as through these partnerships we can address development issues and foster sustainable growth and development,” she added.

Through the M4C Project, 40 percent of rural women market vendors across Fiji have accessed online trainings. The handing over of 20 laptops, 20 portable printers and scanners demonstrates UNDP's commitment to supporting inclusive growth policies and strategies aimed at increasing financial inclusion and reaching out to vulnerable groups such as rural women market vendors and farmers.

Christina Kumar, a market vendor at the Nausori Market said that she is grateful for the support. “For us as market vendors, as businesswoman, I believe that digital innovation will greatly boost gender equality and women economic empowerment.  The handover of the laptops, printers and scanners will help us, through the Market Vendors Association, progress in our daily business operation at the market.” 

She added, “Often, we pay money to go out of the market to print our documents, to scan our documents or even type a letter addressed to the Council CEO or market manager – where we raise issues that affect us at the marketplace. Getting out of the market and looking for internet shops can be a hassle and costly to our business- leaving our tables unattended for a few minutes or hours, and it’s through this support, that we will be able to focus on earning income, without the hassle of going outside of the market to conduct administration work for our business.”

Market vendors with the UNDP Resident Representative a.i., Dawn Del Rio.

Photo: UNDP

UNDP Resident Representative a.i. Dawn Del Rio said, “This support will ensure that urban and rural market vendors and farmers under the project have the resources they need, to constantly learn new ideas, methods, or techniques to better serve their families, communities, and the nation. This support will ensure the urban and rural market vendors and farmers contribute to improving their lives, thus alleviating poverty.” 

Del Rio added, “We applaud the strong partnership with partners and key stakeholders in its efforts to continuously promote and advocate for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. The Fiji Government must be acknowledged for taking the lead in paving the way for partners and communities to collaborate with international organizations, non-governmental organizations, partners, donors, and communities.”

The event took place on Thursday, 2 March 2023.

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 (MVAs), civil society organizations and UN agencies.

For more information or media interviews: 
Vilisi Veibataki, Markets for Change Project, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji,
Setaita Tavanabola, Communications Associate, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji,