Tabuya: Three centuries to close gender gap

Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Lynda Tabuya during a break in the parliamentary session on Monday. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

Fijian women entrepreneurs faced many barriers setting up their businesses. One of which is that, it will take three centuries to close the gender gap.

Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Lynda Tabuya said this while highlighting the Fiji Country Gender Assessment (FCGA) in Suva last week.

She said the assessment revealed there were over 24,000 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Fiji, but only 19 per cent of registered businesses listed women as owners.

“This indicates a significant disparity between the number of women-owned businesses in Fiji and the overall number of MSMEs in the country,” she said.

“Furthermore, most MSMEs operate in the informal sector, which can limit their access to government contracts and secured commercial loans from banks and credit unions.”

Ms Tabuya said the barriers included overwhelming business registration processes, limited opportunity for capacity development, burden of unpaid care and discriminatory socio-cultural norms.

“We can only achieve sustainable development growth by drawing on all our assets and capacities.

“In recent decades, we have seen remarkable progress on women’s rights but these gains are far from consistent.

“At present trends, it will take three centuries to close the gender gap in economic empowerment, a gap that is widening not lessening.” Ms Tabuya said a study by the World Bank noted that in 141 countries, if women had the same lifetime earnings as men, global wealth could increase by $160 trillion. That’s an average of $23,620 per person.

She asked: “But what does it take to realise this?

“Is the current focus on improving women’s access to financial products and services sufficient?

“Maybe the answer is no single fix, there must be many fixes tailored to the specific conditions that could work with our realities but to me it comes to one fixation ‘a women-centred approach’.

“Meaning, how can we better learn from women’s daily struggle to make money and thrive as leaders, workers, consumers and entrepreneurs while also navigating abusive relationships to protect and care for their children and families.”

She said ministry would soon develop a Women’s Economic National Action Plan (2023-2028) which would examine specific challenges faced by all women, address the links between gender-based violence and women’s economic disempowerment as well as challenging gender discriminatory social and cultural norms.

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