This year, our Executive Director, Julie McKay, had the fortune of visiting Fiji, to meet women who are benefiting from UN Women’s programs. There she met Lelani.
Each week since she was 15 years old, Lelani has travelled from her little village to sell fruit and vegetables in Lautoka marketplace. The marketplace is a hot, airless silo. Until recently, Lelani would join her fellow vendors in displaying their goods for sale on the ground. Because her village is far away, she slept inside the market. There was no lighting, no bathrooms and no access to clean water. Men from the bar across the street would come into the market at night, often demanding the earnings of the vendors, the majority of whom are women trying to support their families. One night, Lelani’s best friend was attacked by a gang of drunks. Fear was her constant companion.
Thanks to UN Women’s Safe Markets program , Lelani no longer sleeps on the floor at the market. A shelter for vendors who travel from afar each week, enables women vendors, including Lelani, to sleep safely at night, behind a locked door that is staffed by security guards. Here Lelani can do laundry, have a shower and every night, the stalls and floor of the market are hosed down. Toilet blocks have been built. Fans have been installed. The newly clean market has seen visitors swell in numbers and Lelani has now undergone training provided by UN Women, covering basic accounting and how best to market goods. Lelani’s income has doubled as a result. She has savings for the first time in her life, and no longer lives in fear of attacks or theft.
Thanks to the support of our generous donors UN Women will build more accommodation and improve market conditions for vendors like Lelani all across the Pacific, keeping women safe and providing them with independence and opportunity.
This work is made possible because of the support provided by people like you. Instead of living in fear, Lelani now has safe shelter, renewed marketing skills and is growing her income to support herself and her family.