Women’s empowerment and leadership crucial for the future of informal settlement

By Erica Lee

32 women of Naviavia community in Cakaudrove have begun a series of workshops with the Pacific Centre for Building (PCP) to help them develop agency, leadership and entrepreneurial skills.

The workshops are an outcome of a baseline study conducted by PCP in November last year on the status of the women in this informal community. Naviavia is located 54km out of Savusavu town in Vanua Levu. The residents of Naviavia are descendants of Solomon Islanders
brought to Fiji in the 1800’s to work on sugar-cane and banana plantations. The community was given permission by the Anglican Church in 1929 to reside on the land. While many community members have inter-married with i-Taukei members, they are not classified as i-Taukei due to their male lineage. This fact means they do not have landowning rights or a voice in provincial council meetings and have limited access to government services.

The survey projected deep insights into the economic status of households and women’s participation in community matters. The survey also indicated the disparity in the income earned and the expenses obligation of the households in community matters, church and education. The
average income of a household is about $80/ week. The household’s expenses vary in terms of educational commitments, church and community obligations.

In March, PCP worked with the National Center for Small Business Enterprise Development, deliver the first lot of capacity development workshops such as financial competency, business knowledge and skills. The training was also supported by the Provincial Administrator of Cakaudrove, Mr Setareki Dakuiboca.

PCP will continue to provide support over the coming months on Leadership, Peacebuilding and Conflict Analysis training. The project aims
to raise awareness of the plight of this ethnic minority community who in the years to come will need the skills and support to navigate and
negotiate their existence and right to reside on the land. PCP hopes that by strengthening the existing women’s groups and connecting them
with key women leaders in spaces of decision making, that the woman will be empowered to stand up and voice their concerns and needs.

The workshops and baseline study were supported through a grant from the Fiji Women’s Fund.