Papua New Guinean WLI alumna Diana Wally Guria has increased networks, understanding of Melanesian culture, and drive to empower women, youth and people with disability in business after completing a work placement with the Reserve Bank of Fiji (RFB) through WLI.
Over two weeks, the Master of International Business and Entrepreneurship alumna (Curtin University) reviewed Fijian and Pacific financial inclusion programs and strategies, met formal and informal regional business operators, and learned from actors empowering women and marginalised communities in business.
The placement was “vital” in exposing Diana to new knowledge, skills, ideas, experiences, and awareness of how to drive economic empowerment and inclusion and reduce poverty through entrepreneurship, which remains Diana long-term career goal.
According to Diana, the two-week placement was focused “mainly on engagement and discussions with various stakeholders, field trips to different villages and centres, and participating in training”.
“Prior to commencement, [I] had a meeting with the Governor of Reserve Bank of Fiji, Mr Ariff Ali, who welcomed me and gave his full support to accommodate my learning,” says Diana.
This learning would involve staff of RFB’s Financial System Development Group guiding Diana on key areas, functions, effective schemes and financial pillars of the Bank and its activities, and insights gained introducing Fiji’s National Financial Inclusion Strategy (2022-2030).
Diana explains, “It was highlighted that MSMEs aid to reduce poor living standards when they create job opportunities, enable fiscal growth, and promote women’s contribution in various business activities - all of these align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Furthermore, I was given the opportunity to meet the manager in charge of the RBF MSME Credit Guarantee Scheme [and learn] completely new insights on how the scheme works to assist women in business, youth, and businesses...”
To learn about business capacity building programs available in-community, Diana took a series of tours, meetings and workshops with ANZ Bank, Kameli Batiweti, CEO of Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation, and Eseta Nadakisifavuki, President of the Women Entrepreneurs Business Council.
She also visited the small but impactful offices of Frank Hilton Organisation and explained, “It was thrilling to observe and see the wonderful and committed staff taking care of children with disabilities and their families in Fiji.”
Through these encounters, Diana learned the importance of “having insights on the different activities offered [and] building networks with significant leaders who have influence in the business space”.
She also met with South Pacific Business Development (SPBD); a network of Pacific microfinance organisations dedicated to eradicating poverty by empowering women in rural settings.
“We took a two-day trip with [SPBD] Centre Managers and visited villages and centres in Naganiuatu, Lakena, Naitiqiri, Namadi, Naisogowaluvu, Nasevoyu and Suva City [to observe] women engaged in various small informal businesses, such as sewing, cooking, selling garden food etc.,” Diana explains.
On one of these visits, Diana witnessed a group of women providing financial support to a fellow member who had fallen ill and missed a scheduled meeting to repay a loan. Instead, repayment of her loan was made by contributions from each member of the group.
“As per SPBD guidelines, she will later repay these back to the group with interest.
“The arrangement basically empowers the woman to continue driving her business, and encourages her through networking, which creates team bonding and commitment.”
Diana saw first-hand the positive value of networking, coaching, mentoring, and training on how to create a business proposal and other vital lessons which were offered to participating women in English and their local languages.
By participating in MoneyMinded Training, “a critical training program of training of trainers who will then facilitate and deliver financial literacy education in local communities” facilitated by ANZ Bank, Diana also learned invaluable skills and how to be more assertive.
Attending the 2023 Women Entrepreneurs Business Council Convention
According to Diana, “The Last two days of the internship were the finest, best, and most exciting,” because she was able to attend the 2023 Women Entrepreneurs Business Council Convention on ‘Women Invigorating the Nation’.
Diana explains, “There were many great speakers, and presenters from private sector, government agencies, NGOs and corporate entities, who shared their experiences of how they managed challenges and find ways to enhance their business.
“The keynote speaker was none other than our very own advocate and influencer of WLI – Ms Adimaimala Tafuna’l, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Women in Business Development Inc in Samoa.
Other notable attendees included Fijian Minister for Women, Children and Alleviating Poverty, Hon Lynda Tabuya and Assistant Speaker for Parliament Hon Lenora Qereqeretabua.
After completing the two-week placement and learning from so many actors working to empower marginalised community members, Diana feels better prepared to advance her own development goals, which include to provide training for women, young people and people with disabilities to thrive in business.
Through this training Diana explains, “The emphasis [will be] on delivering basic life skills and training for business startup, boosting existing business, and possibly guiding them to access a variety of services through various Government agencies and key stakeholders,” she explains.
Reflecting on the most important lessons she took from her two-week placement, Diana noted the intense collaboration between different organisations and government agencies working together to empower women entrepreneurs, and the ways Fiji’s National Financial Inclusion Strategy takes steps not to “leave anyone behind”.
Diana adds, “The placement has supported and built my leadership and created more professional connections within the region while giving me a deeper understanding of Melanesian culture and values.
“The exposure and experience have given me a new drive to explore opportunities to empower women in business, youths, and people with disabilities in my country.”
This workplace internship was made possible through Diana’s participation in the Women’s Developmental Leadership Program, of which she is an alumna.
Participants and alumni of the Women’s Developmental Leadership Program can apply to access workplace internships and other professional development opportunities through the WLI Leaders Hub.