ABOUT 60 women from the Western Division are taking advantage of the week-long University of Fiji Sugar Festival to sell homemade dishes.
The women, from 16 centres in Lautoka, are recipients of the South Pacific Business Development microfinance initiative that encourages unemployed women in rural communities to start their own businesses.
Anaseini Varobakia, from the Velovelo centre, said the initiative was a blessing for most of them and their families.
"We've been able to pay for school fees, groceries for our families and even pay off home loans," she said.
"Some of us have even set up shops and canteens through this project."
Ms Varobakia said about 500 women from 30 centres in Lautoka had individual microfinance businesses.
"The project encourages women to be innovative in their own way and start their own businesses.
"It can be anything from baking to selling cooked dishes and from there they can start other things from the skills they've learned.
"We get training and attend business workshops that are headed by large banks and corporate businesses in the country.
"We take what we've learnt and use that to develop our own businesses."
The SPBD Microfinance (Fiji) Ltd was launched in November of 2010 to make available the benefits of microfinance to low-income and disadvantaged women of Fiji who constitute 35 per cent of the population.
The project has more than 3000 clients and a loan portfolio of $1,100,000.