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Addressing barriers faced by Fijian women entrepreneurs and business owners will spur business activity and create a more open and productive economy, says a book recently released by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Women and Business in the Pacific, a joint publication from ADB’s Pacific Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI) and the Government of Australia, examines how women across the Pacific engage in the private sector. For Fiji and six other countries, it analyses and proposes responses to issues that can stifle women’s economic participation. These include limited access to land, finance, skills training, and markets; shortcomings with dispute resolution and enforcement of rights; and threats to health and personal safety.
“Women’s economic empowerment will not happen automatically or quickly in Pacific island countries,” said ADB Director General for the Pacific Carmela Locsin. “It will require a sustained, collaborative effort from governments, development agencies, civil society organisations, and the private sector. This book, with its innovative and pragmatic recommendations, will help these institutions formulate effective programs to ensure women in the Pacific can participate fully in their economies.”
“No nation can reach its economic potential without harnessing the energy, skills, ideas, and talent of women,” said First Assistant Secretary in Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Office of the Pacific Kathy Klugman. “With the diversity of ways, it presents to support women’s empowerment and their equal access to economic opportunities, Women and Business in the Pacific will help governments, business, aid organisations, and women in the Pacific themselves to achieve the goal of seeing more women working and leading in the private sector.”
Despite progress over the last few years, women in Fiji remain under-represented in the workforce, according to the book. For example, only 37% of Fijian women participate in the labor force, compared with 76% of men, with most employed in a narrow range of occupations such as health and social work, or food services roles.
“Many of Fiji’s women entrepreneurs—especially in the informal sector—struggle to access finance, are vulnerable to natural disasters and personal misfortunes, and lack knowledge of and access to skills training and information,” said the book’s lead author and PSDI’s Gender Expert Vijaya Nagarajan. “This book provides local insights and practical recommendations to support Fijian women to overcome these barriers and fulfil their potential as employees and entrepreneurs.”
The book identifies numerous opportunities to empower women business owners and entrepreneurs in Fiji. These include simplifying company formation and business licensing processes; providing information on and facilitating partnerships for exporting, particularly for fair trade and organically farmed products; and creating a centralised entrepreneurial “hub” where women can learn about financing opportunities and receive skills training.
PSDI is a regional technical assistance programme undertaken in partnership with the governments of Australia and New Zealand, and ADB. PSDI supports ADB’s 15 Pacific developing member countries to improve the enabling environment for business to support inclusive, private sector-led economic growth.
ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. In 2018, it made commitments of new loans and grants amounting to US$21.6 billion. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.
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