The Malaita Provincial Government of Solomon Islands has officially received the additional infrastructure work done to the Auki Market through the Markets for Change [M4C] project.

The hand-over ceremony, which observed local custom and protocol, was done in the presence of partners, including representatives of the Australian High Commission and the Market Vendors Association.

Infrastructure work included concrete slabbing and proper drainage done to the seaside area, increasing floor area for vendors and a much cleaner area for fish and seafood vendors. A security fence was erected around the market premises, addressing security concerns for women vendors and ensuring a secure place for their produce.

Joanne Zoleveke, Senior Gender Advisor and Debbie Sade, Senior Program Manager of the Australian High Commission commended the collaborative work and partnerships that had led to the gathering.

“Australia is pleased to partner with UN Women through the Markets for Change Project to support the Auki Market upgrades including the fencing and fish slab works. Australia is committed to women’s economic empowerment work in Solomon Islands and is delighted to see the infrastructure work done, providing a safe market environment for women market vendors and vendors in general,” Ms Zoleveke said.

Approximately 250-300 vendors access Auki Market during normal days and 450-500 vendors during peak days.

“Markets for Change project supports two of the seven key priorities of the Malaita for Rural Advancement [MARA] government policy. The need to empower women in development therefore becomes crucial in these two areas. The role of women in the household can be improved if they are provided with the right avenues and facilities,” Randal Sifoni, the Deputy Premier of Malaita said.

“A safe marketplace environment is very important for women and girls to effectively participate in development. We live in a society where if no attention is given to recognize the role of women, then the danger to further undermine the role of women would be great.”

Janet Ramo, the President of the Auki Market Vendors Association said members and non-members alike celebrated the increased space vendors now had, and the cleanliness of the seafood section. “Being part of processes related to the completion of this structure has been a long but great learning journey for us. And most of all, we feel like we own it, that it’s ours as much as it belongs to the whole province. We will treasure this partnership. Tagio tumas M4C.”

James Hagi, the Auki Market Master said: “Thank you Australian Government for the funding support through the Markets for Change project, for the infrastructure improvements at the Auki Market. These facilities are now ours and our avenue to find money/income. I urge all vendors and people of Malaita using this facility to take good care of it and look after it for our future generations.”

Sandra Bernklau, the UN Women Representative in the Pacific said women vendors who had joined Market Vendor Associations were now reaping the benefits, one of which was their contribution to planning and designing marketplace improvements such as those completed in Auki.

“Projects such as this one benefit from the inclusion of women’s voices in the design and improvements of market spaces – this makes them safer and more resilient places to work in. UN Women congratulates the Malaita Provincial Government on the completion of the market improvements, and also thanks the Government of Australia for their support and partnership. We hope that Auki Market will continue to be a safe space for women vendors to do business.”

The M4C project brings together governments, market vendors and market vendor associations, civil society organizations and UN agencies to promote gender equality through the economic empowerment of women market vendors in Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. M4C is implemented by UN Women in partnership with UNDP and the Governments of Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Source: Joint Press Release