Coverage: UN Secretary-General meets with women market vendors in Vanuatu at the forefront of climate resilience

Date: Monday, May 20, 2019

UN Secretary-General António Guterres speaks with market vendors at the Port Vila Market in Vanuatu. Photo: UN Women/Trisha Toangwera

The impact of climate change has been greatly felt by market vendors of the Pacific islands. On 18 May, the members of the Silae Vanua Market Vendors Association (SVMVA) were able to share their experiences of how they are addressing the impacts and risks of climate change with the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres at the Port Vila

The Secretary-General was greeted by the Acting Lord Mayor of Port Vila Peter Yamack and also met other dignitaries, including government representatives, the Diplomatic Corps and UN Women Representative Sandra Bernklau.

UN Women’s Markets for Change Project works closely with market vendors in Vanuatu, and across the Pacific towards safe, inclusive and non-discriminatory market spaces, promoting gender equality and women’s economic empowerment to strengthen the resilience of women and their families and communities.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres speaks with market vendors at the Port Vila Market in Vanuatu. Photo: UN Women/Trisha Toangwera

The Port Vila Market is the first Pacific market to remove plastic bags completely, and the market vendors were especially proud about the opportunity to share this achievement with the Secretary-General.

Port Vila market accommodates vendors from urban and rural areas and we are proud that the market vendors have started putting into practice what they’ve learnt from the trainings provided under the Markets for Change Project,” said Mr. Yamack.

“The market vendors were able to discuss how they’ve improved their management of market businesses, adapt [to] climate-smart agricultural practices, diversify and start new businesses. We can see that they are slowly adapting to changes in their environment and preparing themselves for good and bad times, so they have sustainable income flows to support their families.”

During his tour of the market, Mr. Guterres had the opportunity to hear from market vendors who spoke of their personal experiences of how they were building resilience to climate change through the Markets for Change (M4C) Project. Ms. Merang spoke about the benefits of having representative bodies like market vendors associations, which has provided a platform for women in leadership in the marketplace, and Leisavi Joel and Winnie Douglas shared how they have strengthened their businesses.

Through the market vendors’ associations, rural women’s voices are also influencing local decision-making processes. Having an organized and strong market vendor association means that market vendors are better supported and prepared for climate disasters as well.  Today, the market vendors in Vanuatu have Disaster Preparedness and Action plans for each marketplace.

“We are grateful that we were able to share our stories with [the Secretary-General of the United Nations] during his visit to our country; this has been an experience of a lifetime for me personally and also for us as market association. Taking him around today is acknowledgement that we are doing something right,” said Ms. Joel.

“I’m very proud of the market vendor leaders who represented their members during the UN Secretary-General’s visit, to see them confidently share their stories of resilience and economic empowerment and disaster preparedness,” said UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Representative, Sandra Bernklau.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres speaks with market vendors at the Port Vila Market in Vanuatu. Photo: UN Women/Trisha Toangwera

Vanuatu was the UN Secretary-General’s last stop in the Pacific, after visiting Fiji and Tuvalu, in preparation for the upcoming global conference of world leaders on climate change in New York, United States of America, in September.

UN Women’s M4C project is a multi-year, multi-country initiative that aims to have marketplaces in rural and urban areas of Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu that are safe, inclusive and non-discriminatory, promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. It is implemented jointly with UNDP and principally funded by the Australian Government. Since 2018 the project partnership has expanded to include funding support from the Government of Canada.

See the full coverage of the UN Secretary-General’s visit on the UN Women Asia Pacific website.