The importance of rural women in Vanuatu and their critical role in national development has been highlighted in this year’s celebration of the International Day of Rural Women (IDRW).
More than 500 rural women gathered in Mele village in Efate, Shefa Province, and Canal Fanafo in Santo, Sanma Province, to celebrate their role and contributions towards agricultural and rural development, increasing food security and reducing poverty in their communities.
“During the two-day event at Mele village, we were able to connect and learn a lot from each other through each other’s stories,” said Eslin Solomon, President of the Silae Vanua Market Vendor Association (MVA).
“I have been in the floral business for six years now, earning income to support me and my daughter who has a disability,” shared 79-year-old Mel Kaltak from Erakor village, who took advantage of IRDW to display her floral products and share ideas with other market vendors and rural women in business.
When asked at the market how, despite finishing school at age nine, she was able to write well and keep good records, Ispell Toa from Malo island replied, “My mother finished school in year two but what little she knew, she taught me.” Fifty-two year-old Ispell, who works as a market vendor in Luganville Market, was taught to read and write in Bislama by her mother using the New Life Book Three ‘Oli bin berem Jisas I Savior’ that they owned. Using her basic education from her home island, and reading and writing skills learnt from her mother, she has worked to develop her own market business and is an inspiration to other rural women and girls keen to learn and advance in life.
This year’s themes were Together We Make Changes for Efate and Together We Build Better Businesses for Market Vendors for Santo. The rural women shared their personal stories about how they developed their livelihoods and their communities by working together despite the little resources they had.
“On behalf of the Vanuatu Government, I would like to convey a very special thanks to you,” the Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon. Alfred Maoh said at the opening ceremony of the International Day of Rural Women (IDRW) at Mele village, stressing the need to “play our part” in ensuring women’s contributions are recognised and supported through the national sustainable development program [NSDP] initiated by the government.