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Working with women for livelihood development
09 March 2004
by Ashwini Prabha (NUNV),Development Communications Officer

Bonn, Germany: The Pacific Sustainable Livelihoods Project has undertaken a new project called Fiji Retail Enterprise Engine or "FREE" craft shop which is a business incubator, the first of its kind in the Pacific. It provides an affordable retail option for artists working at home, while at the same time providing them the necessary business training and facilities to effectively grow their business. It is designed to support self-employed artists and crafts people, of which two-thirds are women.

Personally, I'm involved in publicizing the shop and its wide range of products such as designer clothing, hand painted Sulus (sarong), beaded and shell jewellery, contemporary handbags, leather craft, and cushions to wood carvings, sand stone sculptures, traditional and contemporary pottery and paintings from various artists and crafts people. I have produced a brochure for the FREE shop and am in the process of writing a number of promotional features for magazines to publicize the shop. The local media has featured few of our female incubates.

The women are attached to the business incubator for a period of 12 to 18 months after which they operate independently. While attached to the business incubator, the artists are provided with affordable office/factory space; shared office facilities and services such as telephone, fax, internet, computers, photocopier, resource library and meeting room; advice from professionals such as business people, lawyers and accountants; and business training and mentoring.

Another women oriented project for me is to produce a publication on small business run by ordinary women throughout the region.

I will be designing and writing motivational stories from interviews such as a mute artist from Papua New Guinea, a Vanuatu woman who earns her livelihood from weaving and sewing and many other women from the Pacific successfully running their own businesses. This publication will be widely circulated and is aimed at inspiring other females to create sustainable small businesses.

This contributes towards the economic empowerment of women in the Pacific, alleviation of poverty through employment and provide sustainable livelihood cases studies for Pacific Island women.

Finally, I would also like to highlight the PSLP’s initiative to empower women by increasing their access to savings and loans services. This is done through the micro-finance promotion and development function of PSLP.

Some of the on-going projects under this are VANWODS (Vanuatu), SPBD (Samoa), the NMFU (Fiji), and the community-based Savings Projects in Fiji. I will be involved in this undertaking later in my course of work.

Overall, these are some of the ways in which the PSLP improves conditions of women in the Pacific and my involvement in the project would allow me to interact with these women and help improve their conditions.