BY JOY OFASIA
MAJORITY of women vendors at the Honiara Central Market have undergone an unpleasant, unhealthy and unsafe feeling during the night. Stable accommodation is essential to addressing these problems.
Without secure accommodation, how can vulnerable women market vendors in the Honiara Central Market begin to feel safe at night?
Naomi Amos, a window from the eastern plains of Guadalcanal province regularly travels every week to the Honiara Central Market to sell her cash root crops with her youngest 3-year-old son.
“I usually come down every week to town with my loads of root crops to sell, but the problem is that my crops sometimes can take two to three days before it is completely sold so to wait for the next day to continue my selling, my son and I join other vendors to rest for the night in front of the shops in Honiara,” the widow explained.
Honiara Central Market is owned and operated by the Honiara City Council and the market vendors are women from the provinces of Guadalcanal, Malaita, and Central.
The accommodation of women market vendors in the Honiara Central Market is often neglected by national, Honiara City Council and local government policy frameworks. For many women vendors, establishing a temporary accommodation facility in Honiara will be essential to begin addressing the problems they face today.
The Honiara Central Market vendors can be seen as not as strongly connected to the local community of Honiara City and vendor security is a greater concern. Women vendors faced a particularly higher level of risks than men. They are more likely to face theft, sexual harassment, and intimidation.
Honiara women market vendors are safer ‘during market hours’, but at night petty crime (theft) and violence related to alcohol and drug sales may lead to disturbances. As women, they are an easy target for perpetrators.
While there are outstanding security concerns for vendors, donor or government interventions would do well to support these longstanding issues of establishing proper housing or accommodation for local vendors.
Honiara City Council Clerk, Rence Sore previously reminded local market vendors and their sympathizers that business hours of the Central Market runs from 6.00 am to 6.00 pm of each market day.
“The Central Market is a meeting place for all vendors and buyers, where they exchange goods in the form of crops, vegetables, fruits, and handicrafts for money.
“The closing time can even be stretched to 7.00 pm depending on the business of market schedules and therefore the transaction between vendors and buyers occur during the opening hours of the market,” the City Clerk said.
He further noted that the transaction between vendors and buyers occurs during the opening hours of the market and therefore, the Central Market is not a lodging/sleeping place for vendors nor buyers.
“Thus to claim that locking out vendors at 6.00 pm by Market Authorities for cleaning for next day use does not demean the human dignity of vendors.
“Accommodating Vendors at the market for overnight lodging will overstretch the roles and responsibilities of the Honiara City Council. We are simply not responsible to keep vendors in the Central Market during market-close-hours.
“Perhaps it will make lots of sense if market vendor accommodation in the city is provided by responsible Members of Parliament.
“This “Vendors locked out at Central Market” issue is a concern not only for the City Council but also for the Solomon Islands Government, in particular, responsible Members of Parliament ought to listen to this call,” Rence Sore added.
However, the President of Honiara Central Market Vendors Association Moreen Sariki continued to stress that there should be proper accommodation for the vulnerable vendors like women, girls, and children.
“This is a big issue for vendors, especially those who travel very far distances from their rural villages or provinces to Honiara with their loads of agricultural produce to sell at the Central Market.
“Among these vendors are mothers with their children who traveled with their children from very far distances to sale their cash crops,” HCC Vendor President said.
Sariki said that it is a sad scene to see women, girls, and children, even men vendors who slept in front of the Honiara Chinese shops during rainy and fine long nights waiting for the next day to continue with their selling of goods.
She added that not all relatives of these vendors in town will be happy to accommodate their relatives who are vendors. This makes it very tough for these vendors to find safe and comfortable accommodation for them to rest over the nights.