|Dr Jiko (L) at opening of the Namotomoto Women's Resource Centre|
Sofaia's story provides another example of how several government down-to-earth initiatives are helping women lift themselves out of poverty.
Other examples include the women's resources centres, assistance with marketing and budgeting, the grandmothers trained to provide small household solar energy units, the distribution of sewing machines, and, last week, the first of the cheap, low fuel Rocket stoves that will save electricity costs and fuel woods and have a minimum environmental impact.
Some of the initiatives show the advantage of looking to rural Asia, and not the developed economies, for low-level technologies that can be used in Fiji.
A NEW BEGINNING, FROM $90 TO $600 A MONTH
The saying that “where there’s a will, there’s always a way,” has proven true for Sofaia Finau Tagi from Wainibuku Rd, 9 miles, Nakasi. Being a widow and raising 3 children on her own has not been an easy journey for Ms Tagi, however, through the government’s Welfare Graduation Programme, she now operates not only one but two businesses and is able to see her youngest daughter receive her higher education through the Fiji National University (FNU).
Ms Tagi was a social welfare recipient for the last two years, till early this year, when she received the funding of $1600 as part of the Welfare Graduation programme to start her canteen business. She was also given the opportunity last year to participate in “Competency-based Economies through Formation of Entrepreneurs (CEFE) business training” provided by National Centre for Small and Micro Enterprises Development (NCSMED).
The former welfare recipient who used to depend on $90 monthly allowance is now able to earn $600 a month through the canteen business through which I have also been able to expand the piggery project that gives her a profit of $10,000.
“I am so proud that today, I am given this opportunity to share my story, I have struggled to raise my children and I am grateful to the Ministry of Social Welfare for always supporting me. Today I am happy to say that two of my children have well established careers, while the youngest daughter is going to FNU.
“I wouldn’t have a story to tell if it wasn’t for the social welfare ministry that has helped me to start my canteen business which has given me a new beginning in life. I usually buy the groceries in wholesale and then sell it from my canteen and this is populated area so the business is good. In the first week I started this business, I earned $400 and usually in a month I am able to earn up to $600. The earnings fluctuate however, I am able to earn enough to support my family.
“Through the savings from canteen, I have boosted my piggery project that gives me higher returns now. I am able to send my daughter to FNU and also sustain my businesses. It is through the $1600 startup capital from the Ministry that has helped me to climb the ladder of success and to move away from handed out mentality, these events changed my life forever,” Ms Tagi said.
She said that her dream is to inspire her family and those around her to always have the determination to drive that positive change in one’s life.
“This is a very big change in my life and I am thankful to the Ministry and the present government for opening such opportunities for widows and single mothers. My only message to the social welfare recipients is to come out of their comfort zone-to realize their talent and use the assistance given by the government to reach for their dreams.
“I can proudly stand and look myself in the mirror and say that I am a independent woman. It gives me that personal satisfaction to know that I don’t have to depend on the government or anyone for that matter to support me. This success began with a simple step to change my thinking, to believe in my abilities and challenge myself to run these businesses, but I am grateful the social welfare ministry for turning my challenge into my biggest success,” Ms Tagi expressed.
“The Ministry is amazed with the achievements made through the Welfare Graduation Programme and this has been possible with our partnership with NCSMED. The programme has a budgetary allocation of $500,000 and focuses on moving recipients from “welfare to workfare.”
“The programme reinforces the principle that poverty is a temporary state and as a society, we must uphold the value of work and self-sufficiency. When people move from welfare to work, they begin to contribute meaningfully towards national development, they regain their self-esteem and confidence and they inspire others to step into pathways of becoming financially independent,” says Dr Jiko Luveni, the Minister for Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation.
To date the Ministry of Social Welfare has assisted 109 recipients into starting businesses ranging from poultry, catering, canteen, bee keeping, agriculture, bakery, market stalls, tailoring, yaqona retail and handicrafts, which are carefully monitored by the Ministry and NCSMED. --- MOI.