Ra Naari Parishad, a local community organisation established in 1989, works with women and girls in the Ra community to support economic empowerment, promote leadership and promote involvement of rural women and girls in decision- making processes.
Supporting women in rural and remote communities in Ra has been the mainstay of the Ra Naari Parishad since it was established in 1989. As a current grantee of the Fiji Women’s Fund, Ra Naari receives support for its Rural Women Lifeskills Programme.
This programme is the precursor to what members of Ra Naari Parishad have planned. The Lifeskills programme aims to empower the women through skills development, increasing their expertise. In doing so, women will be able to diversify the source of household income and build networks of support and their range of products and service provision. With the Fund’s assistance, Ra Naari is working towards becoming a social enterprise where the skills the women learn can be used to generate income on a larger organised scale.
And this model will allow them to employ staff and volunteers and reduce reliance on a sole donor. Ra Naari has 12 affiliate clubs and women’s groups located in and around Rakiraki. Members work together to empower women and involve them in decision making and leadership in their communities.
The Nanuku/Wailevu Women’s Group is one such group, led by retired school teacher, Sunitra Mishra. The group has supported community members in various ways including during times of a disaster. “During the recent flooding in Ra, we assisted those who were affected.
Previously, we’ve also provided financial assistance to the sick and contributed to the rebuilding of the temple after Cyclone Winston,” said Sunitra. Majority of the Ra Naari members sell home-made chutney and craft to raise the funds and support their work in the community.
Members work together to empower women and involve them in decision making and leadership roles in their communities. With assistance from the Fund, Ra Naari has ventured into beekeeping and Sunitra is pleased that their community was selected as one of the sites for the 30 beehives, which will eventually be distributed to other groups and clubs.
“We are learning a lot about beekeeping and looking forward to our first harvest of honey. This new project has given us the confidence to think about going into small scale poultry maybe later this year,” said Sunitra. With support from the Fund, Ra Naari has also employed a Project Officer- Daventri Mudaliar, a former Ra Naari volunteer. Daventri has been working closely with Ra Naari members and is excited about the changes she has seen. The training sessions and the activities have added value to the activities and the lives of members and according to Daventri, has attracted new members in a span of four months.
“We now have 125 members compared to 110 since I came on board in March 2018 and you can really see then changes in the women’s lives when they attend our meetings and training sessions,” said Daventri.
The Fund supports Ra Naari with bee-keeping, financial literacy and child minding training sessions supported by the Fund. Additionally, oratory competitions organised by Ra Naari have become quite popular with its members “We have oratory competitions during our meetings and women have gained so much confidence when they speak. We are very fortunate that our husbands and sons help us with the work we do,” Daventri explained.