EDUCATION, in its ability to create employment opportunities for women and girls, has the potential to help create a prosperous economic future.
Westpac Banking Corporation's general manager Adrian Hughes made the comments at the unveiling of the Westpac Women's Education Grant on Monday.
The grant offers financial assistance to girls and women in primary schools, high schools, tertiary institutions and those women wishing to "go back to school" which is the theme of this year's grant program.
Being its third round, Westpac has offered six grants in Fiji and 45 across the Pacific.
"While we have some way to go to create true gender equity in this country, we hope that by giving these girls and women a financial boost, we'll at least give them a better chance to learn and strive for an opportunity to gain meaningful employment," said Mr Hughes.
"According to figures released from AusAID, a staggering $US47billion ($F82.4bn) is lost in the Asia-Pacific region each year due to women's limited access to the job market."
Mr Hughes said keeping women and girls in school could change this statistic for the better by placing them on a path to meaningful employment.
He said women held only five per cent of parliamentary seats in the Pacific.
"Yet according to AusAID, with every one per cent increase in the female parliamentary representation, the economy grows by 0.16 per cent."
He said winners were chosen based on the strong response for the essay question — "If there's one opportunity you could provide for women in your country, what would that be?
One of the recipients Simran Ali said she felt relieved after getting the award.
"I was nervous at first because some of my friends said everyone would write about education," she said.
"Competition is very high but in the end I got it and I am happy."
Ms Ali's focus was on educating women and that it would help them learn about their rights and how to stand up for themselves in unfair and unjust situations.
"Being educated lessens the marginalisation of women in today's society," she said.