NGO says more Pacific businesswomen good for region
Australia's Global Ambassador for Women and Girls says more women in business and positions of power will make a better difference for the livelihood of the region.
Australia's Global Ambassador for Women and Girls says more women in business and positions of power will make a difference for livelihoods of the Pacific.
Natasha Stott Despoja wants more support from governments in the region for women in the private sector and parliament.
Indira Moala reports.
Natasha Stott Despoja says increasing government support for women in the region is critical. There are still very low levels of representation of women in positions of power or influence, with less than five percent holding seats in Pacific parliaments. Ms Despoja is encouraging the private sector to also invest in women.
NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA: A lot of women are not in a position to earn income. Or if they do, they tend to be focussed in the informal economy. So this is a role for business in particular to encourage the efforts of women and girls. Whether that's through training and education opportunities. Or whether it's through grants and loans to assist small business and casual business development.
South Pacific Business Development, or SPBD, believes empowering women is one of the most effective ways to eradicate poverty. As a network of microfinance organisations working in Fiji, Samoa and Solomon Islands the SPBD give small loans to women in rural villages to help them grow and maintain small sustainable businesses. General manager Ajay Verma says investing in women has produced better results than if they were to loan the money to men.
AJAY VERMA: When you give a livelihood opportunity to the woman of the house, a) it empowers her - she usually would take better care of the family. She would reinvest the surplus that is generated from the business. In the good of the family she would want to improve her house. She would want to send her children to a better school.
Do you mean that they would handle the finances more responsibly than the men?
AV: Exactly. They do. You know women tend to handle the household budgets much better. This is in general - the microfinance experience all over the world.
Ajay Verma told of how microfinance has impacted on one of their clients and the community. Mr Verma says the woman, a widow with three children, was given a business loan of about $150 US dollars 8 years ago.
AV: With that she started a very small food stall making the pork buns. Over the years she has now a very big food stall - in fact she has expanded the food stall to three more food stalls. She has about 7 people working for her. To me I think that's one of the greatest success stories - for a woman who had hardly any means of livelihood. And today she is not only providing for her children, but she has also been able to employ 7 or 8 people in her business. So she is actually taking care of about 7 or 8 families.
Ms Despoja says she has no doubt that more women in business and positions of power will make a difference.
ND: The evidence shows us that you are more likely to have policies, you are more likely to have processes that are assisting women and their families...you ultimately lead to policy development that greater reflects the needs and concerns of women and their families.
Natasha Stott Despoja says seeing more successful female role models in different sectors will send a strong aspirational message to young girls.
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