|Dr Jiko (r), the Davuileu women, and four donated sewing machines.|
Not for the first time, they had completely missed the point. Reducing poverty requires major changes at national level such as improved access to education and work but it also needs incremental grassroots action where people are helped to help themselves.
So I have two more stories for the critics this week.
Rabi Island off SE Vanua Levu.
A $500,000 government grant will help women to establish bee farming projects in the four villages, and other projects —coconut replanting programs, soap-making, fish farming and the construction of farm roads as well as root crops and rice farming— will also generate income.
These projects add to those already working on the island: a new virgin coconut oil factory, and a bio-fuel factory that will encourage coconut growers to plant more to meet the demand in the two facilities. As the government representative said: "We are assisting them so they are self-reliant, sustainable and economically-empowered" which, critics, may add is much more than previous governments did.
Nausori, close to Suva.
And on the main island. the Davuilevu Women’s Group in Nausori has secured funding to build a new Women’s Resource Centre.
Minister for Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation Dr Jiko Luveni said development projects like women centres have already resulted in women starting their own businesses and empower them to be financially independent.
The spokesman for those living at Davuilevu, Joji Qaranivalu, thanked government for providing a swift response to their request for a women's centre.
“We are very glad that this is the first government has come right down to us to address our bread and butter issues. We are grateful to the Bainimarama government for coming right down to our doorsteps —to sit with us and hear us out— and identify development projects to improve our lives. This approach empowers us to take ownership of the solutions whilst addressing the challenges we face."
Women's group president Mrs Kesaia Wati Qaranivalu said the Minister’s visit has challenged the women to capitalise on their talent and skills.
“We have 50 women in our group who earn income by selling roti parcel, pies, cakes, and fruit juice at the group canteen. On a weekly basis, we are able to fork in $200 to help the women, however we felt that there is much more we can achieve by working together with the government."