Saving is the way to go for Paulini
Paulini Latiyawa is a mother of seven children from Nayavu village in Wainibuka, Tailevu who successfully runs a small business.
Commuters along the Kings Road stretch, will not miss seeing this lady whom during the day sells vegetables and fruits, food parcels as well as savouries such as lollies and chewing gum along the main road in her little store. When at home in the evening she is selling cigarettes and kava which was what she initially started her business with.
Speaking in Fijian, Paulini explained that she started selling cigarettes and yaqona and with whatever little she could save she would bank it on a monthly basis through the ANZ Rural Banking scheme. ANZ sends out it teams monthly to visits communities in the rural areas and gets them to bank their money.
Recently, she was given a micro credit loan of $500 to expand her business. According to the ANZ Team’s communications officer, Lancaster Wong, the bank was able to loan her that money because they also noticed how she was a consistent saver.
Paulini has been saving her money through this scheme which is a project supported by UNDP in partnership with the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP). Statistics recently released show that in Fiji women are better at keeping financial records and they are also better at saving their money and using it for household purposes which in a way they are using their money to look after the development and welfare of the family.
"Now I’ve seen the benefits of saving my money and I’ve learned that when business is slow I can always rely on my savings especially for household expenses. From my business and what I’ve been able to save, I have been able to assist in the payment of school fees for my children as well as unexpected expenses that come up at home," Paulini said.
Michael McCaffrey, Technical Adviser with PFIP explains that women, much more than men tend to invest the money they earn in their family or their household.
"And so Paulini is a great example of this. She has seven children, all of them is in school and she is using the income from her business to pay for their school. So this is one of the reasons why, as a development organization, we like to see micro finance services directed to women because it really ensures that investment is to a family and the community as a whole and not just to one person," he said.
Experiences with micro finance all over the world shows that giving women financial power also improves their position in the society. 30 percent of the population in Fiji are now women but there still needs to be some work done on giving women the same opportunities in terms of getting well paid jobs. UNDP highlights that women are good at running small enterprises like the one Paulini has, but only 20 percent of small and micro businesses are run by women. Using micro finance is a way to address this issue and it also empowers women locally especially in the villages. It is also a tool to empower women and increase gender equality in Fiji.
According to the Second National MDG Report 2010, Fiji still has a long way to go in achieving MDG 3 which is to Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women. The Report states that while primary school enrollment rates show gender balance, the same is not true in the workforce as well as the number of women in politics.
Minister for Women, Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation, Dr Jiko Luveni said Government realizes that 15 years after Beijing gender equality is still not progressing as fast as it should and there was more need to work at the community level.
However, the Department of Women, she said is now concentrating a lot of its efforts on engaging women in the income generating projects where they learn to sew and sell their goods and are also encouraging them to learn to save money from what they earn. She said this was an initiative between the Department, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Training and Productivity Authority of Fiji (TPAF) in training women to start their own businesses.
In addition, the Minister said that they would like to see more women being involved at the decision making levels in Parliament, at the local government levels like in Tikina (district) meetings and also at the village level.
"In just about everything to do with life, overall the women are actually the agents of change. Because of that they should be given the opportunity to be at decision making level. Even in politics and in Parliament. They are representing the women and families, including men, in Parliament."
The Minister also encourages men to share the responsibility of looking after the home with their women in order to bring about gender equality. Change, she believes starts from the home when one starts learning to empower women.
"We really need to work on sharing of responsibilities in the household chores. So that men also understand. We need the men to be supporting us in this as well, so we share responsibilities in the home to free up women to participate in boards and committees.
"And also for gender equalities. If we bring them up in a way where there is no gender discrimination…it’s more likely that we will make a difference in 15-20 years, Dr Luveni said.
Paulini on the other hand, does what she can amongst her women folk in Nayavu – encouraging them to save whatever little money they have because that is a way of helping their husbands to care of the household needs.
I’ve come to know of the benefits of saving money, because I know that whatever little I save accumulates and is useful in the long run and it will help me in the future," she said.