Suva, Fiji - With three certificates in hand, Marguerite Gain shares her vision: she wants to become a shop owner to sell her wide array of sewing products, including, pillowcases, curtains, sulu jaba (Fijian traditional women’s dress), and men’s shirts. It is not just a dream, but her business blueprint.
It has not been a quick or easy path for her – Marguerite has struggled and fought to stand by herself economically and emotionally after she ended an unhappy marriage. Returning to her mother’s village alone, she wondered what she could do to earn a living, as she was not used to working on a farm like other women in the village. Instead, Marguerite started sewing, a skill she had learned from her mother earlier. She began sewing school uniforms for students, women’s and men’s clothing for village functions among other items, for over 10 years.
One day, an opportunity to upscale her business came to her village. Marguerite learned she could register her business when she met a team of government officers providing ‘mobile awareness raising and service delivery’ in her village. She immediately applied to register her business with the team. The certificates she holds are milestones and testaments to her hard work toward owning her own business. They are proof of her sewing skills and legal qualification by the Fiji Government to open her sewing business. Business registration is an essential step to legally establish a business in Fiji because it is a requisite for the issue of a business license.
The ‘mobile awareness raising and service delivery’ was coordinated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji as part of the initiative, Rights, Empowerment and Cohesion (REACH) for Rural and Urban Fijians Project, supported by the Government of Japan.
The REACH Project uses an integrated mobile and inter-agency approach, providing a crucial first step for people to become aware of their economic, social and legal rights enshrined in the 2013 Constitution of the Republic of Fiji, and delivers associated government services provided by the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Legal Aid Commission, Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, Registrars’ Office and other institutions.
Marguerite was one of many other women who came to know the government services, including business registration, support for women’s clubs and women’s skills training, and applied for the services made accessible right on their doorsteps through the REACH mobile awareness raising and service delivery.
Strengthening women’s economic participation and entrepreneurship is an important aspect for advancing gender equality. As studies show,business formalization provides an important foundation for the viability and development of enterprises, in particular by improving access to capital. However, ‘inconsistent, cumbersome and inaccessible registration and licensing processes discourage formalization of women-owned enterprises.’
The REACH Project provides women with access to government services and inter-agency support in a coordinated manner, enabling them to improve and advance their economic, social and legal status using the government services.
“I have been thinking how I could expand my sewing business. The registration process was not complicated. I applied in my village with support from the officers. Now that the registration has been completed, my business plan is more real and firm. I feel confident that I can do it,” said Marguerite.
The REACH Project contributes towards achieving gender equality and promotes empowerment of all women and girls, as an integral part of and a key enabler of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals or Global Goals, which have been endorsed by the Fiji Government.
 Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). 2013. ‘Enabling Entrepreneurship for Women’s Economic Empowerment in Asia and the Pacific’. http://www.unescap.org/resources/enabling-entrepreneurship-womens-economic-empowerment-asia-and-pacific
Tomoko Kashiwazaki, Advocacy and Outreach Specialist, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji; Tel: +679 331 2500; E-mail: email@example.com