"You must dream about something. You must talk with everyone, learn from each other, and plan together."

It was with these words that Ms Clera Rikimani from the Women’s Development Division at the Malaita Provincial Government encouraged members of the Auki Market Vendors’ Association (AMVA) to think big as they looked to collectively develop a strategic plan for improving their market environment.

The 53 women and seven men took part in a three-day Information Sharing and Planning workshop in Auki last week as part of UN Women’s Markets for Change project.

The strategic plan that they put together as a result of the workshop is framed under the vision of a ‘healthy, safe, friendly, inclusive and organised market that supports economic empowerment for everyone’. The plan will guide the AMVA to work effectively with market management and other stakeholders in order to achieve this vision.

During the workshop participants worked together to identify areas that need attention in the market place such as limited water, electricity and waste management facilities, as well as existing opportunities that could be strengthened to bring about positive change to the market place and market vendors' lives.

An information exchange on the first day provided market vendors with an inspiring opportunity to hear from a number of organisations and institutions that are working in Auki and wider Malaita, including Kastom Gaden Association, World Vision, WorldFish, Malaita Council of Women, Women's Development Division (MPG), and the Healthy Market Setting Committee.

Participants described the information sharing session as a very valuable experience and acknowledged the value in forming friendships and networks with a variety of stakeholders.

One male participant said: "Today we can learn how to be part of something wider. I hope that us market vendors have support to work well in the market. Our mindset today can set up a future for our children. It is important that we have the right mindset to work together, to cooperate.”

UN Women’s Markets for Change project works closely with local governments and market vendors, especially women, as well as other stakeholders. In Solomon Islands, the Markets for Change team is working with Honiara City Council and Malaita Provincial Government.

The six-year project is made possible primarily through funding from the Australian Government, as part of its Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development initiative.

One key intended outcome of Markets for Change is the formation of effective and representative market vendors' associations that are able to participate in market place decision-making processes and that provide a voice for market vendors’ needs and interests, especially women who make up the vast majority of market vendors but often have limited influence in decision-making processes.

In 2014 and 2015 market vendors’ associations were formed at Honiara Central Market and Auki Market. Both associations are registered under the Solomon Islands Charitable Trust Act.

Press Release: UN Women