By Neehal Khatri
The Soroptimist International (SI) Sigatoka club has embarked on a one-year project to empower women in the Nadroga-Navosa Province through vocational and life skills training.
As part of a global movement of diverse women volunteers, the club aims to inspire action and create opportunities to transform the lives of women and girls by advocating for equity and equality, creating safe and healthy environments, increasing access to education and developing leadership and practical skills for a sustainable future.
The SI Sigatoka club was established in 1971 and it currently has 16 members who represent a range of occupations, talents and interests. The club members meet once a month to discuss and work on their volunteer projects, which are centred around the theme ‘Educate, Empower, Enable’.
With this new project, the Soroptimists will expand their work to reach women and girls in communities they haven’t worked with yet, including those living in the remote areas of the Nadrogra-Navosa Province. This initiative is supported by the Australian Government through the Fiji Women’s Fund.
Vocational skills training and support is a key focus of this project. For this, the club has planned two streams of targeted training and support: agriculture-based and handicraft work, including sewing.
Last month, they surveyed households in Cuvu, Cuvu Top, Kulukulu, Oloolo, Olosara and Laselase Village to determine the needs and interests of the women and their families. According to Project Coordinator Lalita Lal and Project Officer Sujita Deo, they made sure to include family members in the survey to ensure the women had their support.
Lalita and Sujita shared that some of the household members surveyed had lost their jobs or were working on reduced hours because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other challenges that emerged from the survey included water shortages, lack of land for backyard gardening and family members being reluctant to have their wives and daughters-in-law engage in economic activity. For agricultural activity, some families were concerned about theft as well as complaints from neighbours regarding the smell and noise from livestock.
With the first set of surveys now completed, the club members have mapped out the activities they will undertake with the communities they are working with. Women participants from Lasalase Village have decided to focus on making jewellery, while those from Cuvu, Cuvu Top, Kulukulu, Oloolo and Olosara will learn sewing and horticulture.
After this phase of training has been completed, the club will focus on providing agriculture-based training and support to women living in the more remote parts of the province. This will be followed by a market day where the women can showcase and sell their products.
Apart from vocational skills training, the club will provide life skills training in areas such as gender and social inclusion, child protection, health and safety awareness, financial literacy, and human rights. These training sessions will include club members and community participants.
The club members are also focusing on improving the leadership and governance of their organisation. In September, they participated in 3 training sessions to help them plan, review and develop goals for the long-term sustainability of their club and to enhance their office operation to provide support services to their members. They also worked with a trainer to review the club’s constitution and help them prepare standard operating procedures.
According to Lalita and Sujita, this is the first time their club has received funding for a project of this scale and it has been a learning experience for the club members. With a budget of FJ$50,000 for the year-long project, the club is expanding the scope of its educational activities and reaching more women and girls in the Nadroga-Navosa Province. At the same time, they are strengthening the club’s governance structure and processes to allow them to better serve their purpose to educate, enable and empower women and girls.
About Soroptimist International Sigatoka Club
Soroptimist International (SI) is a global volunteer movement, with members belonging to more than 3,000 clubs in 126 countries. In Fiji, there are 7 SI clubs based in Sigatoka, Suva, Nadi, Lautoka, Ba, Rakiraki and Labasa under the Federation of the South West Pacific. The SI Sigatoka Club was established in 1971 with the aim to inspire action and create opportunities to transform the lives of women and girls by advocating for equity and equality, creating safe and healthy environments, increasing access to education and developing leadership and practical skills for a sustainable future.