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Anju's sacrifice

Matilda Simmons
Thursday, November 02, 2017

Anju Lata loves to share her story of how she started out as a business woman to anyone who would stop by her shop at Waimanu Rd in Suva.

A tailor by profession, she operates a shop in Lautoka and Suva where she sews traditional Fijian sulu and jaba, dresses and shirts for all age group.

It's a skill she picked up as an eight-year-old and helped improve her family income.

"I was a very poor lady," she said.

"I worked at a garment factory then for a sewing shop for about 12 years before I decided to venture out on my own," she added.

Inside her shop at Vishal Arcade, it was busy with the sound of sewing machines as three of her machinists sew many of their client's jaba and bula dresses.

The walls of the shop were lined with many of the bula designs she and her workers come up with or ideas passed from her clients.

"I never refuse when women come to me to ask for jobs because I know what it's like to have no money. I remember when my kids were small, I couldn't even afford to give them 10 cents for their pocket money so I used to cook sweets or food for them to take," she said wiping tears from her eyes.

"I had it in my heart that I had to open a shop."

According to Anju, she managed to collect enough money from the Sugar Festival in Lautoka through her stall there.

She then paid a rent deposit for a 7x7 tiled space before getting a sewing machine. However, she didn't have money to buy the cloths to sew.

And it was through a kind loan from a friend that helped start things through.

"I had a friend in Mrs Naboka who loaned me $50," she said with a smile.

"With the $50, I bought a bale of cloth to sew five sulu and jaba and received $150 from its sale. Then I went on to buy more cloths.

"I worked hard. During the first year of the operation of my shop, I never slept well. I worked from 8am to 5pm then load my sewing machine, bring it home and start sewing … my children were schooling at the time.

"I cooked the food and did my house work. All this time while I operated my business.

"That's why I always say women are strong. We can absorb hard labour."

Today her four sons and daughter are working and leading their own lives. Anju said she only came to Suva and operated her business because her daughter was studying at university.

The passing of her late husband in 2013 hasn't dampened her spirits. She is confident of getting more out of her business.

"On November 3, I will be opening a new restaurant in Nausori," she said proudly.

"One of my sons is a chef and he will be managing it. I won't be resting any time soon from my business. In fact, I'm just getting started," she said with finality. You can find Anju at her shop — Bula Fashion Wear — at Vishal Arcade in Waimanu Rd, Suva.

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