Vanuatu celebrates rural women’s lives

HUNDREDS of women from around Efate were gathered at Erakor Village this week to celebrate International Day of Rural Women 2016.

Usually celebrated on October 15, the event was brought forward this year due to that date falling on a Saturday, a family day in Vanuatu.

Following the success of last year’s International Day of Rural Women at Emua Village, events for this year were held for two days.

The event at Erakor Village began with an opening parade followed by string bands, dancing, speeches, displays, stories, local food and handicraft stalls over the two days of celebration.

In Vanuatu the event is financially supported for the third consecutive year by UN Women’s Markets for Change Project, which aims to strengthen women’s economic security and rights in marketplaces throughout Vanuatu, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands.

The six-year initiative includes three markets sites in Vanuatu – Port Vila, Luganville and Marobe – and five Shefa Province ring road markets. Markets for Change (M4C) is supported by the Australian Government.

International Day of Rural Women is celebrated all around the world and was first observed in 2008 to recognise ‘the critical role and contributions of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty’.

Between 75 per cent and 90 per cent of vendors working at Pacific marketplaces are women and their earnings often make up a significant portion of the incomes of many poor households. Despite this, women are often excluded from market governance and decision-making. M4C works with stakeholders, service providers and the market vendors themselves to: build and support inclusive, effective and representative advocacy groups; deliver appropriate services, training and interventions; ensure women’s voices are heard and taken into account at the decision-making level; and to improve physical infrastructure and operating systems.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has provided AU$10 million across Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands to support the implementation of the Markets for Change project.