Investing in Women to Accelerate Progress for Gender Equality in Samoa

By UNDP 08 March 2024, 11:00AM

Samoa joins the global celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD) with this year's theme, “Invest in women: Accelerate progress”.  IWD is an annual event that takes place on the 8th of March and is commemorated worldwide.   It is crucial, especially in Samoa's unique context, to acknowledge the pivotal role that investing in women plays in advancing gender equality. In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the need to empower women and girls in Samoa, addressing the structural and cultural barriers that have historically limited their opportunities for economic, social, and political advancement.  Investing in women in Samoa is not only a matter of equality but also a strategic decision with the potential for significant societal benefits.

Investment can help accelerate progress by bridging the gender gap in employment facilitating access to education and employment opportunities, promoting informal learning to combat poverty, transitioning to a green economy, and enhancing personal safety. One of the main focus areas in the Markets for Change project in Samoa is ensuring that marketplaces are safe, inclusive and non-discriminatory while fostering gender equality and women’s empowerment.  In partnership with the Samoa Land Corporation, the M4C Project have developed plans and strategies to address identified issues at the marketplaces.  

Ulugia Petelo Kavesi, CEO of Samoa Land Corporation (SLC), underscored the prevailing challenges and emphasized the significance of collaborative efforts to tackle them, thereby enhancing women’s access to economic opportunities.

 “Just like any other public place, we continue to deal with many social problems in the market, such as rubbish littering, vandalism, noncompliance with road signage and codes, youth fights, and unhygienic and unhealthy attitudes, among others,” he said.

“The Market 4 Change objectives and purpose for this Project are crucial for SLC.  Currently, we have received cleaning supplies such as Hand Sanitizers, Masks, Mops and Brushes, as well as safety boots, safety gear, safety helmets, raincoats, safety vests and safety glasses etc.  We had also received and have installed cameras, first aid boxes for all three markets including Salelologa market.  There are also plans to build accommodations for remote vendors, and more.  Once these items are successfully delivered and fully implemented, we believe it would significantly benefit the Salelologa Market, thus improving standards for vendors especially women vendors who travels from afar to town to sell their goods at the marketplace, we believe this is beneficial for the country and the public at large.”

Besides economic empowerment, investing in women in Samoa involves addressing health and safety issues for women vendors in both Salelologa and Fugalei market. “Market vendors are very busy and do not have the time to visit the hospitals for health check-ups but this morning I am very happy to have the opportunity to check my health for free especially the glucose and blood levels, family planning consultations and more importantly the dignity kits we received which will help immensely in maintaining good health and welfare. Some of the market vendors who were at the high-risk level received free healthcare advice and referred to the public hospitals for further support. Thank you to the project for bringing this service to us” (Woman Market Vendor, Salelologa)

Greening the marketplaces in both Upolu and Savaii with recycling and solar powered lights, contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emission and mitigating climate change and energy efficient. At the same time, these lights will provide assurance that there is security for students (75% are women) that are attending National University of Samoa (NUS) night school on the second floor of the Salelologa market.   This is a step towards creating more economic opportunities and a sense of security which will allow women to sell their goods and attend class without feeling scared.

Investing in women has the potential to create a ripple effect, leading to broader societal changes. “The business management and financial trainings had enabled me to improve my knowledge on how to run my small business. I learned to control spending on non-business items, record all income and expenses, purchase only what is needed for each day so there is no waste of supplies. The tablet provided has improved my business records and it has made it easier for me to know the big sale items as well ease of reference when I fill in forms for the Ministry of Revenue for business license registration” (Woman Market Vendor, Fugalei)

“The significant contributions women make to their families, communities, and the National economy often go unnoticed or underappreciated. By investing in women and maximizing their already substantial impact in society, we can enhance gender equality, reduce discrimination and violence, and ultimately benefit the wider society as a whole,” said UN Women Country Representative to the Pacific Ms. Delphine Serumaga. “Markets for Change facilitates opportunities for empowering women to invest more in their communities. This aligns with the ongoing discourse on accelerating progress for gender equality in Samoa, resonating globally as we approach nearly 30 years since the Beijing Platform for Action and the commitments made under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, along with a series of International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions on gender equality."

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, through the Markets for Change Project it recognizes that investing in women is not just a moral imperative but a smart investment in the country's future.  Through its implementation, it continues to foster the economic, social and leadership empowerment of women, as to create a more inclusive and equitable society that benefits everyone.  It is through these deliberate and sustained investments that Samoa can continue its journey towards gender equality and sustainable development.   

“UNDP is privileged to work alongside our partners and the women of Samoa, through the Markets for Change project, the bring about real and lasting change at the grassroot level.   When we empower women, especially economically, we transform families, communities, and nations.  This International Women’s Day, let us renew our commitment to the women of Samoa, supporting them in their economic endeavors, ensuring no one is left behind,” said Aliona Niculita, UNDP Resident Representative.

The project in Samoa is a collaborative effort with the Government of Samoa and civil society partners including Accident Compensation Corporation, Samoa Land Corporation, Samoa National Provident Fund, Samoa Business Hub, Women In Business Development, Samoa Family Health Association and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.   M4C remains dedicated to promoting economic, social and leadership empowerment of women, to create a more inclusive and equitable society that benefits everyone.  These intentional and sustained investments are pivotal in accelerating Samoa’s journey towards gender equality and sustainable development.    

The Markets for Change project promotes gender equality through the economic empowerment of women market vendors in Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.  It brings together governments, market vendors and market vendors associations, civil society organizations and UN agencies.   M4C is implemented by UN Women in partnership with UNDP and the Government of Australia and New Zealand.

By UNDP 08 March 2024, 11:00AM
Samoa Observer

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