Auki Women Market Vendors : Driving Force for Local Economic Development

March 28, 2024

ANZ Money Minded Training participants organised for Auki market vendors.

Photo: UNDP

Auki, Solomon Islands - Marketplaces across the Pacific Islands play pivotal roles in driving local economic development, and the Solomon Islands are no exception. Here, marketplaces serve as vital economic intervention sites for rural market vendors and farmers, supporting income generation, family sustenance, and community engagement.


Auki Municipal Market

The market is a hub where approximately 90% are women who trade on a daily basis to support their families. Predominantly from Malaita, these vendors specialise in various goods, with men largely concentrated in fish sales, while women mostly sell cooked foods, root crops, clothing and fruits and vegetables. Many of these vendors, mainly women from outlying areas arrive as early as 3am to secure a stall and often spending long hours until their produce is sold. On peak days, typically Fridays and Saturdays, there are some 450-500 vendors, while weekdays see about half that number. During slow sales periods, some vendors travel to Honiara to sell or reduce prices to facilitate sales before returning home.

Auki Municipal Market.

Photo: UNDP

The informal sector is estimated to generate 85% of all economic activity in the Solomon Islands, with women comprising over 80% of market vendors. ​Women enter the informal economy due to various barriers in the formal economy, including limited business opportunities, difficulties in accessing finance, constraints on business growth, lack of legal protections, and inadequate social support.

Partnership for Change 

With the support from Markets for Change Project, the Auki market vendors were able to access capacity-building trainings, information and services to enhance their business development. Recognizing the pivotal role of women from Malaita Province, in the local economic development, the project acknowledges these women as pillars of economic resilience and communityvibrancy. Their presence, amidst the vibrant market atmosphere symbolizes the complex dynamics of gender and the informal sector's vital role in the Solomon Islands' economy.

Auki market vendor trading from Auki Municipal Market.

Photo: UNDP

Bridging Formal Economy Disparities

Despite progress in education, formal employment opportunities for women remain limited due to barriers such as restricted business opportunities, financial constraints, and inadequate legal protections. Consequently, the informal sector emerges as a primary source of economic activity, with women constituting over 90% of market vendors in rural settings. While market vending offers livelihood opportunities, it also presents challenges deeply intertwined with social norms.

Auki Municipal Market vendor.

Photo: UNDP

Social Norms

In addition to business constraints, various social norms hinder women’s participation in both formal and informal economies. These include unequal gender roles gender-based violence, long working hours, unsafe working conditions, lack of legal protections, limited opportunities for skill enhancement and exclusion from decision-making processes. 

Despite these challenges, women vendors demonstrate resilience by persistently trading at the Auki Market to support their families, children’s education and aspirations.  Their determination drives progress and economic empowerment amidst adversity. 

Economic Empowerment

The Markets for Change Project acknowledges the contribution of rural women market vendors and aims to create economic empowerment. Through initiatives such as entrepreneurship promotion, access to finance, and advocacy for gender-responsive policies, the Project seeks to facilitate women’s active participation in local economic development. Additionally, the project collaborates with ANZ Bank to provide capacity-building training for Auki market vendors on finance management, planning, budgeting, goal setting personal and business goals, assertiveness and financial discipline.

Auki market vendors at the Money Minded Financial Literacy Training.

Photo: UNDP

As Auki Market continues to grow in supporting local development, the resilience and entrepreneurial spirit of its women vendors shapes a brighter economic future for themselves and their communities.

Aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Markets for Change Project directly contributes to multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8) Reducing Inequalities, Reducing Inequalities (SDG 10) and Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11). It aims to promote equality and economic empowerment for all  including , women, youth, people with disabilities, and marginalized minority groups.

Implemented by UN Women in partnership with UNDP, with support from the governments of Australia, Canada and New Zealand, the Markets for Change (M4C) project offers financial literacy training. Networking opportunities and access to essential services, aiming to improve the livelihood of market vendors and their families. 

For more information, please contact:

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