Fiji Time: 6:39 AM on Thursday 22 March

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Worth the sacrifice

Ilisapeci Tinanisigabalavu
Friday, March 09, 2018

ESETA Tuinakelo is a familiar face in the Suva Municipal Market because she can be seen every week helping her mother in their market stall.

Ms Tuinakelo hails from Sautabu Village in Nadroga and travels with her mother from their village to sell in Suva. They leave the village by carrier at 11pm on Wednesday nights and reach Suva in the early hours of Thursday mornings. They travel with five other women from their village and the carrier expenses for the three days are equally divided among the women. Travel expenses cost them $700 every week for the three days that they hire the carrier. Her mother was sick on the week of this interview and was not able to come to Suva to sell their produce.

Everything they sell is from their farm in Sautabu. They sell corn, chillies, pumpkin, lemons, curry leaves and eggplants. The guavas and avocados are brought from the forest. Ms Tuinakelo and her mother earn $500 to $700 weekly. Their income go towards their groceries that are bought on Saturday.

They sleep at the Rural Women Vendors Accommodation or at her sister's home in Kinoya when they are in Suva. They leave the city at 11pm on Saturday nights. Like other market vendors, Ms Tuinakelo has to brave the sun and rain in order to sell her produce.

Meanwhile a survey conducted by this newspaper found market vendors based outside the Suva Market raising their concerns about crops being damaged due to extreme weather conditions.

President of the Suva United Market Vendors Association, Sofia Talei said the sheds outside were provided by the UN Women's Markets for Change Project and the Suva City Council and extra tarpaulins were available to any vendor who requested for it.

According to Ms Talei, those who sell outside are known as casual vendors and they pay $3.25 for the space they use while permanent vendors inside pay $2.75. Casual vendors pay more market fees because they pay for the space only when they use it, while permanent vendors have to pay for their tables even if they are vacant.

Ms Talei also said most casual vendors needed proper training and awareness about the procedures to follow when raising their concerns.

"There are tarpaulins inside the Market Master's office for the casual vendors to use, the only thing they need to do is request for it. If they can't go inside the office, then they can come to us (Association) and we will request for the tarpaulins on their behalf.

The problem is that they hardly ask for the facilities they need.

As market vendors we're to follow procedures, there are channels of communication needed to be followed.

"However, she said most of them didn't follow the proper channel and sometimes their complaints even reached the PM's office before being referred back to us. The channel of communication is missing.

"The Association (SUMVA) and the Council (SCC) are sometimes not aware of the issues that market vendors faced, and we only know about it through publications in the media because they don't raise their concerns directly to us," she said.

When asked if workshops had been done to create more awareness for the market vendors, Ms Talei stated that awareness programs had been conducted for the market vendors but some were still not aware of the proper procedures to follow or were being influenced by incorrect information and ignorance.

"There have been previous workshops held to train market vendors. The workshops are more focused on women because most of the market vendors that come to sell at the market are women. Vendors need to raise their concerns with the Association or the Market Master in order to be assisted," she said.

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