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Investing in women's empowerment
7:36 pm GMT+12, 18/06/2017, Fiji

The dynamics of women's economic participation is changing and investing in women's economic empowerment will set a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth.
Fijian Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Mereseini Vuniwaqa made this remark while closing the 3rd National Women's Expo at the Vodafone Arena in Suva last Friday.
“Many rural women have limited access to economic services like banking, loans and financial literacy; and also other essential like health and medical care, and Government services," she said.
“Ensuring that women are free to fully participate in their country's economy is not just the right thing to do, but is the smart thing to do.
“When women have higher incomes and bargaining power, their children tend to be healthier and be educated. This tends to increase a society's long-term prosperity and I encourage all stakeholders to continue working for the development of all women in their various capacities.”
The three-day expo, with the theme "Be Bold, Be the Change" provided a substantial platform to recognise and empower more than 475 women artisans from Fiji's rural communities and maritime.
"The three days of expo has shown a vibrant community of women leaders and entrepreneurs from the 14 provinces around Fiji, whereby rural women have been the participants," Vuniwaqa said.
“It has been an exciting journey for my ministry to return with this much-anticipated event of the Fijian Government through the co-ordination of the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation.
“To the women artisans who have participated in the national event, I wish to congratulate you on the marvelous exhibition that you put up for Fiji and her visitors in these three days.”
A major highlight of the event was the licensing of 51 women artisans with then "Fijian Crafted" certification which will enable them to obtain the Fijian made emblem for their products and further expanding their reach to new and potential markets.
Other highlights included the fashion show which included designers from the rural communities displaying an array of colourful, traditional attire.
The National Women's Expo began in 2014 to recognise the creativity of rural women, their sustainable economic activities and further connecting them to markets, both local and overseas.
It also had a rationalised aim to boost quality of products of women artisans through certification done in collaboration with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism and the Fiji Arts Council.  
Meanwhile, the 3rd National Women's Expo held last week was hailed a success and raked in more than $367,565.35 (US$177,916.44)of sales by the women artisans.
“The increases in the number of licences and so far the highest sales record ever at the expo is assurance that our women have a lot of economic potential and that we are moving in the direction to further enhance it,” Vuniwaqa said.
“Thanks to the grit and the determination of women in Fiji, I am proud to say that the 3rd National Women's Expo, with the theme 'Be Bold, Be the Change' has been successful beyond expectation."
“You have been bold in taking this step to be economically empowered and I know that you will continue to be that positive change in your families, communities and for the nation.”
Vuniwaqa, who was present throughout the duration of the expo, said it was an honour to be part of a platform that made the aim of empowering Fijian women a reality.
“Rural women artisans have the skills and the will to churn the engines of our economy through the work of their hands who have for the past three days been very active in this arena.”
In the 2016-2017 fiscal year, Vuniwaqa said more than 1400 women artisans had participated in 13 provincial craft shows to exhibit their products. Through these craft shows, more than 500 women were selected by officials from the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and the Fiji Arts Council to participate at the annual national expo.
“I wish to acknowledge all the women who have participated in this year in all of the provincial craft shows, whilst some of them made it to the national event based on their innovation, creativity, and quality of their products, some did not make the cut,” she said.
“I wish to encourage them to participate again next year, with improved products and aim to make it to the list of selectees.”
More than 475 women from rural communities and outer islands of Kadavu, Lomaiviti, Vanua Levu, Lau and Rotuma were part of the expo.


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