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Women invest in homes and children

Filipe Naigulevu
Thursday, March 08, 2018

THE notion of rural women being marginalised by several social and economic factors is changing vastly through several platforms such as entrepreneurship.

And while these women possess strong and viable skills to start their own income generating businesses, enabling support from several institutions, organisations including Government are making this a realisation.

One such institution which has had an impact on rural women is the South Pacific Business Development (SPBD) — a microfinance network operating in six Pacific countries including Fiji.

The organisation so far has reached hundreds of villages across Viti Levu, Vanua Levu and Ovalau since its establishment in Fiji in 2010.

This was a milestone worth celebrating with more than 2000 women converging in Suva recently to celebrate the 7th SPBD Foundation Day coinciding with their annual awards.

Founder and president of SPBD Gregory Casagrande said their network in Fiji had reached more than 9000 successful micro-entrepreneurs in a span of seven years.

"Across the board, SPBD Microfinance Network including Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu, we have now provided over $240 million in unsecured financing to help over 50,000 women micro-entrepreneurs to start their own business and grow small income generating businesses," Mr Casagrande said.

"Whether it is here in Fiji or elsewhere in the Pacific, these are women who are investing in their businesses, in their homes and in their children's education."

While SPBD's journey initially began in Samoa in 2000, it reached a hallmark in Fiji last December when the network surpassed $US100m ($F209.25m) in "micro loans" disbursed to tens of thousands of women entrepreneurs.

As of last December, more than 34,250 loans worth $US16.5m ($F34m) were disbursed to Fijian women entrepreneurs. Throughout the years, SPBD had also grown in leaps and bounds throughout Fiji with the expansion of their offices from Suva to five more branches in Sigatoka, Lautoka, Rakiraki, Labasa and Savusavu. Apart from loans, savings account and micro-insurance support, the network also provides financial education support for the women.

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