Market vendors – Plea to improve safety

Market vendors sell their produce at Lautoka market. Picture: FT FILE/BALJEET SINGH

FOR many years, Fijian market vendors have always ensured the best products are sold to the Fijian people.

By best means the freshest farm produce, the freshest sea food delicacies and the freshest seasonal fruits and the list goes on.

They are the very people thousands of Fijians rely on when they needed the best root crops, the fresh vegetables and the lovely foods to feed their families.

Their hard work and determination has always gone unnoticed by many people.

Aside from their hard work and perseverance to sell their produce and provide for their family, they are also fighting for a safe environment to work in.

They want a safe environment to sell their products in and they want to be surrounded by people they can trust.

Most market vendors treat the market as their second home and they sometimes bring their children with them to the market where they would spend the whole day.

Given the hike in sex-related offences, vendors from seven markets around the Western Division have pleaded with relevant stakeholders for the installation of CCTV cameras around all market areas.

They are concerned about the safety of their children, their own lives and of the produce they sell daily to earn income.

Their plea was heard at the improving safety in markets western stakeholders divisional meeting in Nadi, a meeting organised by the UN Women Markets for Change program which allowed vendors to voice their concerns and grievances.

Market vendors of Lautoka should be commended for working hand in hand with police to curb illegal criminal activities in the market.

The joint venture named Operation Minor between Lautoka market vendors and officers from the Lautoka Market Police Post should be commended as it is a way forward for our country.

Those present at the stakeholders meeting were told that investigations had resulted in the removal of two juice sellers whose permits were revoked after they were found selling single roll cigarettes and illegal drugs from their stalls to children.

Many questions would have been asked on why children have always been the target of such illegal activities.

It is important to take note of the fact that children are so young and they are easily dragged into any conversation or activity especially being together among friends and peers.

The Lautoka Market Police Post officer Corporal Lagakali Uluiviti said the juice stalls were one of the red zones because of the illegal activities happening around them.

She also commended working with the market vendors to solve such issues which had been going on for sometimes now.

At a time when vendors should really be focused on selling their products, they are also working hand in hand with police to curb illegal activities as they want a safe environment to work in.

Parents, guardians and elders have an important role to play in ensuring their children are not involved in such activities.

The Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Ministry permanent secretary Jennifer Poole says the first line of responsibility for protecting children is the family.

“Then the community and lastly it’s the role of the State,” Ms Poole said “As parents, we need to be able to provide the best possible opportunities to our children as well as unconditional love and affection.

“However, our reported child abuse and neglect cases show that children are abused or exploited by the very people they trust, those who are supposed to protect them — parents, step-parents, grandparents, boyfriends, relatives and neighbours. Child Protection begins in the home.”

The rise in unwanted illegal activities is an important wake-up call for everyone to work together and curb these illegal criminal activities.

If our market vendors are taking the lead in working with the police, it should also send a message to everyone in the community to educate their loved ones and always keep a look out on the younger Fijian generation who are
always vulnerable and have become victims of such activities.

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