“[For] us women, there are always ways to earn money,” says Susana Silikiwai, a SPBD member from Kalokolevu village on Viti Levu.
Susana was one of the members who came to Suva to celebrate SPBD Fiji’s 10th anniversary recently. “I shed tears” Susana said while thinking about her SPBD journey. “I was looking at where I am now, the number of educated women that could [have] come here, and that God chose me to come here. I thank God.”
Susana runs a canteen and makes lovo packs. Since COVID-19 hit, she has also begun selling produce in Lami each Sunday, after 26 years selling from Suva municipal market. Lami is well known for its small Sunday market populated by Seventh Day Adventists like Susana (who mark their sabbath on Saturdays), and Susana says she can earn more on that one day than if she were to come into Suva market four days a week.
Susana is also training family to help in the business. “I’m teaching one of my children, my daughter. I told her not to go anywhere, or work elsewhere. I told her to stay in the market, for me to teach her how to buy and sell, for her to stay in Lami market while I run the one in Suva.”
Her membership with SPBD has enabled the grandmother of 25 children to care for her family, grow her income and extend her home, adding two extra bedrooms, a kitchen and sitting room.
“I take care of my children, my grandchildren, and even one of my nephews; his parents passed away. I am supporting his education. That’s SPBD. These banks here, they can’t help us like SPBD does. Our house is a small house, I used to say. One small house with 2 bedrooms, no kitchen. We cook inside; if the weather is good, we cook outside. I thank SPBD for giving me the wisdom and the knowledge, I am really happy with SPBD; [and have] extended my house.”
Susana continues to think about how she can increase her income and diversify her business. Kalokolevu is situated on the busy road between Suva and Nadi and she wants to take advantage of this convenient location.
“I want to expand my business and do one [stall] on the highway where we live” to sell vegetables, cooked food, juice and handicrafts.
“In two years’ time, I plan to purchase a van to assist with my farm produce and lovo pack deliveries,” she says.
Susana is also keen to buy a pool table to entertain the many children that come to her home and to further improve her kitchen.
As a participant in the Fiji Bloom small and medium business formalisation program, Susana says her coach has advised her to grow vegetables to sell, rather than buying them from other suppliers.
Like other Fiji Bloom participants, she also invested F$1000 of her own money in the training program. “This motivates me to explore other potential businesses out there,” Susana says.
She is also grateful for the assistance SPBD has given her to navigate loans and hire purchase agreements without the complications of detailed paperwork.
She encourages other women in her community to follow her lead.
“It’s all about honesty. If you don’t have honesty, you can’t do it.
“We’re poor…but I thank SPBD for raising our family’s living standard.”