Developing her market business with smile and learning


Report by – Contributed by UNDP Pacific Centre

Under a blue tarpaulin shade put up at the temporary market space next to the bus terminal in Lautoka, stalls selling vegetables, fruits, root crops, market vendors were slowly starting another busy day. Among them, Lidia Vilaiwaqa was putting bags of yagona on the table preparing to open her stall.

Lidia Vilaiwaqa with her customers at her stall

Ms. Vilaiwaqa has been in the market business for over seven years, since her husband retired. “I used to come home with the money I earned on the day and often ended up with giving it to our community people who needed and came to me, kerekere in Fijian, you know,” she said.

Opting to open her stall a little later than usual, she attended a training offered by UNDP in partnership with Westpac.

The training session took place at the women market vendors’ accommodation in Lautoka and provided market vendors with a concept and practices of produce presentation and customer relations. It was the second session in the Continuing Market Business Education (CMBE) programme following the topic on ‘Basic Financial Literacy’ delivered in May. More than 120 market vendors in total have attended the training programme in Lautoka.

Women make up the majority, from 75-95% of vendors in the region. Market Vendors have traded for many years and learn business skills by trial and error. The CMBE provides appropriate training, space and conversations to improve and strengthen the financial literacy and business practice of market vendors especially women market vendors.

“I learnt from the training that budgeting and saving are important part of our business. Also, it is important to make nice presentation at the stall and talk to our customers with smile.  I always make sure my stall is nice and tidy so my customers would feel nice,” said Ms Vilaiwaqa.

Sometimes she sells up to 35kg of pounded yagona in a week. She keeps records on her notebook, how much she bought yagona for, how much to pound it and transport, and the total of her sale each week.

Soon after she started preparing her stall, a pair of young shoppers came and bought a bag of yagona, her first customer for the day. “It is good to learn new things and put it into practice so I can develop my business better,” she smiled.

The CMBE is delivered as part of the Markets for Change project , a six-year, multi-country initiative that aims to ensure marketplaces in rural and urban areas of Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are safe, inclusive and non-discriminatory, promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. A UN Women project, Markets for Change is implemented in partnership with UNDP and supported by the Australian Government.

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