‘WOMEN AS AGENTS FOR ECO­NOMIC CHANGE’

‘IT IS FIJI’S CON­SID­ERED VIEW THAT WOMEN IN BUSI­NESS AND IN THE WORK FORCE ARE A POW­ER­FUL SOURCE OF ECO­NOMIC GROWTH FOR THE COUN­TRY’ ‘I wish to state that it is very im­por­tant that leg­is­la­tion plays an im­por­tant role in en­sur­ing that women are given an eq

Fiji Sun - - Big Story - Faiyaz Koya Min­is­ter for In­dus­try, Trade & Tourism The fol­low­ing is Faiyaz Koya’s state­ment at the United Na­tions Con­fer­ence on Trade and De­vel­op­ment (UNCTAD) 14 at the Keny­atta In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence Cen­tre, Nairobi, Kenya. Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­jisun.com

Moder­a­tor, I’m de­lighted to take part in this leader’s roundtable on women as agents for eco­nomic change. Women are the sig­nif­i­cant agents of change in our fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties and economies as a whole. It is their hard work and com­mit­ment that builds the strong foun­da­tion for the fu­ture of their fam­ily and that of the na­tion. Women in the run­ning af­fairs of the na­tions as well as in busi­ness are a grow­ing force in most coun­tries if not all coun­tries of the World. Over the years, the rate of fe­male en­trepreneur­ship has been grow­ing steadily.

In this re­gard, Fiji is cur­rently lead­ing in the Pa­cific in the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women in our Par­lia­men­tary sys­tem. For the first time, Fiji has a fe­male Speaker of Par­lia­ment.

The sec­re­tary-gen­eral to Par­lia­ment and Sec­re­tary to Cabi­net are also women and this is for the first time in Fiji’s his­tory all these three po­si­tion are si­mul­ta­ne­ously held by women. In the Fi­jian Govern­ment, four women pos­sess sig­nif­i­cant min­is­te­rial port­fo­lios. We have women hold­ing very se­nior po­si­tions, such as Am­bas­sadors, Judges, Mag­is­trates and Leg­is­la­tors. Fur­ther­more, we have women CEOs, Chair and Board Di­rec­tors in Govern­ment Statu­tory Or­gan­i­sa­tions. And 20 per cent of Per­ma­nent Sec­re­taries are women. Fiji has ac­tu­ally main­streamed gen­der is­sues in our Trade Pol­icy Framework. It is Fiji’s con­sid­ered view that women in busi­ness and in the work force are a pow­er­ful source of eco­nomic growth for the coun­try. De­spite the pow­er­ful role women en­trepreneurs play in any econ­omy, we recog­nise that they still face con­sid­er­able hur­dles in terms of tak­ing ad­van­tage of the busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties in­clud­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties trade lib­er­al­i­sa­tion of­fers.

In Fiji, to counter this, we have pro­vided women en­trepreneurs from rural com­mu­ni­ties and outer is­lands an op­por­tu­nity to link to mar­kets, to re­tail their prod­ucts un­der one roof through a Na­tional Women’s Expo. Through this ini­tia­tive we are em­pow­er­ing and giv­ing recog­ni­tion to the women and their spe­cialised skills.

In Fiji, we have put in place poli­cies such as the Mi­cro Small Busi­ness Grant that also helps women play an ac­tive role in the econ­omy. Our anal­y­sis shows that in­creas­ing the abil­ity for en­trepreneurs to start and grow their busi­nesses will lead to greater eco­nomic growth, es­pe­cially when it comes to women en­trepreneurs. Women make up ap­prox­i­mately 40 per cent of the Grant dis­tri­bu­tion and 70 per cent of the to­tal re­cip­i­ents are in rural area. These are women who are lead­ing from the front – women who are tak­ing the risk of do­ing busi­ness to sup­port them­selves and their fam­i­lies. Ladies and gen­tle­men, I wish to state that the very im­por­tant that leg­is­la­tion plays an im­por­tant role in en­sur­ing that women are given an equal field. Our Con­sti­tu­tion guar­an­tees equal rights. It is also gen­der-re­spon­sive, so­cially in­clu­sive Con­sti­tu­tion, by which un­fair dis­crim­i­na­tion on the ba­sis of race, cul­ture, eth­nic or so­cial ori­gin, colour, place of ori­gin, sex gen­der, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der iden­tity and ex­pres­sion, birth, pri­mary lan­guage, eco­nomic or so­cial or health sta­tus, dis­abil­ity, age, re­li­gion, con­science, mar­i­tal sta­tus or preg­nancy, or opin­ions or be­liefs, ex­cept to the ex­tent that those opin­ions or be­liefs in­volve harm to oth­ers, is un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Fi­jians are en­ti­tled to rights to ed­u­ca­tion, health ser­vices, rea­son­able ac­cess to trans­port, san­i­ta­tion and hous­ing, rea­son­able ac­cess to trans­port, san­i­ta­tion and hous­ing, ad­e­quate food and wa­ter, in­for­ma­tion and to work and a just min­i­mum wage. We have a na­tional min­i­mum wage in place to pro­tect work­ers in the in­for­mal sec­tor, which is more than of­ten dom­i­nated by women.

In our Civil Ser­vice, all ap­point­ments are on trans­par­ent and merit based sys­tem, which has re­sulted in the re­cruit­ment of more women. As I said ear­lier, we have four out of 20 Per­ma­nent Sec­re­taries who are women.

Over the last seven years the Fi­jian Govern­ment has in­creased fund­ing for the Na­tional Women’s Machin­ery by some 230 per cent. The Na­tional Women’s Machin­ery will con­tinue to be sup­ported with ad­e­quate fund­ing and hu­man re­sources to strengthen their ca­pac­ity to have a strong gen­der data based that can bet­ter in­flu­ence pol­icy. We have also pro­tected women, we have amended our crim­i­nal laws to make it mod­ern and gen­der in­clu­sive by re­mov­ing the ar­chaic rules. Our fam­ily laws have also been amended to recog­nise the rights of women in de-facto re­la­tion­ships and to pro­vide le­gal pro­tec­tion in terms of spousal main­te­nance and prop­erty rights. The Govern­ment has also in­tro­duced the first Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence law, which amongst other things, al­lows any per­son to ap­ply for a do­mes­tic vi­o­lence re­strain­ing order and all of this leads to one thing that is to em­power women, to be at the fore­front of Fiji. Laws that of­fered women no pro­tec­tion are a thing of the past.

As I said ear­lier, our Con­sti­tu­tion has been our start point, and I quite proudly say this, that we have done quite well in Fiji in re­spect of women as agents for eco­nomic change. In the work­place, I can only use my Ministry as an ex­am­ple, as in the Civil Ser­vice all ap­point­ments are on merit and my Ministry has more women than men and I have been la­belled to hav­ing the most ef­fi­cient Ministry. In con­clu­sion moder­a­tor, sup­port­ing women en­trepreneurs with tar­geted strate­gies can help them in­crease their pro­duc­tion out­put and di­ver­sify their ex­ports and con­tinue con­tribut­ing to the so­cioe­co­nomic de­vel­op­ment of our coun­tries as agents of eco­nomic change. I thank you.

Photo: DEPTFO News

The Fi­jian del­e­ga­tion to the United Na­tions Con­fer­ence on Trade and De­vel­op­ment (UNCTAD) in­cluded Min­is­ter for In­dus­try, Trade and Tourism Faiyaz Koya (sec­ond from left), Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary Sha­heen Ali (third from left) in Nairobi, Kenya.

Photo: DEPTFO News

Min­is­ter for In­dus­try, Trade and Tourism Faiyaz Koya (left), at the United Na­tions Con­fer­ence on Trade and De­vel­op­ment (UNCTAD) in Nairobi, Kenya.

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