Empowering Rural Women in Vanuatu Inspires Transformative Change

October 27, 2023
Markets 4 Change

Lavinia Wilson (right) a rural market vendor with an inspiring story in Vanuatu.

Photo: UNDP

The economic empowerment of rural women often contributes to inclusive sustainable economic growth, food security and poverty reduction. However, rural women face significant barriers that limit their access to opportunity and choice.  

Lavinia Wilson's story is one that showcases how rural empowerment can bring about positive change to the personal lives of rural women, to their family, business, and community. She gained confidence, knowledge, and new networks through capacity building training facilitated by the Markets for Change Project, and she has used this as an impetus for sharing her newfound knowledge and skills within her local community. 

Lavinia resides in Natawa Fanafo, with her life story embodying the strength, unity, and potential of families and communities across the rural areas of Vanuatu. She is a dedicated wife and mother of four, and has been instrumental in the operations of Luganville Municipal Market for the past eight years, where she showcases her entrepreneurial skills on a daily basis. 

Like any other market vendor in Luganville, she travels for an hour to reach the market (when the weather is favorable), to sell root crops and vegetables harvested from her farm. Most of her expenses are on the high cost of transportation, with the return bus fare of 5000 Vatu (US$40) eating into her already small profit margin. 

Markets 4 Change

Lavinia during one of the Markets For Change training sessions.

Photo: UNDP

Pineapple Entrepreneur

Pineapple serves as Lavinia’s primary source of income, but when the season comes to an end she effortlessly transitions into selling vegetables and root crops. Even during the fruitful pineapple season, she doesn't let the excess produce go to waste as she generously shares it with her community, a true demonstration of her dedication not just to her family but to her neighbours as well.

Value Addition Training 

Lavinia recently heard about a value addition training program in her area and considered this as an opportunity, seeing the potential for additional income and reduced family expenses. By learning how to transform her pineapple surplus into jams, chutneys, preserved pineapple pieces, and cordial juice, she saw the training as an opportunity to upskill herself so that she can continue to provide for her family and her community.

Markets 4 Change

Lavinia in her garden on the island of Espiritu Santo.

Photo: UNDP

Balancing Family and Business

Juggling family life with her market business is no easy feat. Lavinia begins her day by preparing breakfast and lunch for her four children before attending to her garden. Sometimes, her husband lends a hand in the garden and assists with product preparation for the market. This collaborative approach extends to financial management and is a skill she learned from attending the Markets for Change trainings. Lavinia and her husband work together to allocate their earnings, ensuring that family needs are met. Lavinia's trust in her husband is unshakeable.
The Holiday Season Boost

For Lavinia, the holiday season is the most lucrative time of the year, where she sells up to 500 heads of pineapple, providing a significant financial boost for her family. The success of her business journey has been further enhanced by the knowledge and skills she's gained through training programs offered through the Markets for Change Project.

Markets 4 Change

Lavinia has enjoyed sharing her newfound knowledge and skills with others in her community.

Photo: UNDP

Collective Decision-Making 
In their household, decisions are a shared responsibility. Lavinia believes that for a decision to be sound, both partners must agree. In cases where a decision leads to undesirable outcomes, they acknowledge the collective responsibility and collaborate to find an alternative solution that will directly benefit their family as they are a team.

A Bright Future

The training Lavinia has received has not only improved her business but also strengthened her bond with her husband. She recently encouraged him to attend the next training session with her, emphasizing the importance of shared knowledge in managing their family business. 

Lavinia's story is an inspiring testament to the resilience, unity, and potential that can thrive within a family. She is proof that with determination, the right support, and shared decision-making, families like hers can overcome challenges and create a better future for their loved ones and their community. 

For now, Lavinia is focusing on completing their family project and the construction of a new concrete house. She mentioned that the income she gains from her market sales is directed to purchasing the house materials. 
Empowering rural women is not only key to the wellbeing of individuals, families, rural communities but also to the economic productivity of a nation as women are the largest contributors to the agricultural sector in the workforce globally.

The M4C project is implemented by UN Women in partnership with UNDP and 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 | vilisi.veibataki@undp.org | +679 3227701