Our Traditional Contemporary Arts & Crafts Income-Generating Program has four goals for women in rural Fiji. First, women are given opportunities to develop leadership skills. Second, women crafters earn much-needed income Third, we help develop regional and international markets for these good, and last (but not least), the program helps preserve and promote traditional arts and crafts skills.
The value of empowering women and girls is one of the most important lessons learned over the last few decades, both by academic researchers and donor organizations. Empowerment means providing women and girls with education, skills, and income-earning opportunities beyond those available to them at home and in traditional male-dominated cultures. When women and girls have access to education and sustainable income outside the home, they are better able to withstand many of the abuses typical of many patriarchal societies. A woman with her own income is more likely to stand up to physical and sexual abuse, for example, and even a modest income can help a woman free her family from extreme poverty. Finally, educated rural women and who have opportunities available to them choose to have smaller families, and invest more in health and education for their children, and especially for their daughters who may not have been educated in the past. Finally, a higher proportion of women’s incomes stay in the community and help improve life for men, women and children alike.
It’s an unfortunate reality that disaster relief efforts often overlook the specific concerns of women and girls. But when women are empowered and feel free to speak up, affected communities can have more of a role in their own recovery. When economic development addresses the genuine needs of local communities, international aid is more likely to help prevent some of the worst effects of global development, for example, the ravages of environmental degradation and climate change.