Sustainable peace begins with a part-time housekeeper. At least that’s where Tupou started when she first began working, a women-focused and women-run regenerative organic farming plantation in Deuba, Fiji. In 2018 Tupou was appointed as the Chief Operating Officer of the company, becoming the first Fijian female COO of an agricultural exporting business. Naturally a reserved person, Tupou shied away from being in a leadership position and had to confront gendered norms such as overseeing male employees while overcoming her lack of confidence in communicating with external partners and distributors.
“I was so afraid of even picking up the phone to talk to the distributors in the past. But now I am more confident in leading the employees and in discussions with external parties.”
Alongside her colleagues, of which 70% are women and 30% are single mothers with 3+ children, Tupou receives training in business operations, leadership, financial management, and higher-value farming management. Together, the women are empowered with dignified living and work, and they, in turn, support local farmers – 60% of which are women – in training and certification for organic farming, countering environmental degradation, and accessing international distributors.
This is a ‘game changer’ for women in Fiji, who would typically work ad-hoc, informal jobs, and remain trapped in dependency – either on subsistence farming or on the low market value of their crops. By breaking the ‘slow violence’ of their continued exclusion and inequality in Fiji, which is exacerbated by having one of the world’s highest rates of gender-based violence, women are also becoming ‘peace builders’ by transforming some of the island’s most conflict-prone issues: economic and food security, resource management and climate resilience.
IIX is proud and honored that our work has empowered women such as Tupou to take their livelihoods into their own hands, give them time to take care of their family and businesses, invest in their children’s education, and change their communities.