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The beauty of aid

Pacific Islands Forum

Lusiana is an 18 year old Fijian with a bright smile – and a bright future to match, thanks in part to a training opportunity provided by Australian aid.

The eldest of three, Lusiana helped put her younger brothers through school by selling vegetables with her mother. Her parents had divorced and, with no financial support from her father, making ends meet was a struggle.

“Women in my village have a lot of responsibilities. They have to wake up very early in the morning, make food, get the children ready for school and then make their way to the market or town to sell their crops. They have to take care of everyone in the house and also earn money."

She found a job in a restaurant to help her family, but was still earning only a small amount each week.

“It was a difficult time for us, especially my mum.”

It was the neighbour of a relative who told her about the scholarships to train at the South Pacific Academy of Beauty Therapy – and Lusiana jumped on the opportunity to fulfill a long-held dream. Now she is studying for a Certificate in Beauty and Spa Therapy Level IV, under the Australian aid-funded Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (Pacific Women) program.

“I had always wanted to become a beauty therapist after reading about it online. I was so happy when I got the scholarship! My mum was very happy too and she supported my decision to come here. She said she wanted a good future for me. After I finish studying I want to be able to support them better with what I earn.”

Lusiana is one of 25 students on scholarship at the Academy thanks to Pacific Women. The project enables Fijian women from low-income family backgrounds to chart a different course and become financially independent – something that’s valuable for reasons Lusiana explains:

It’s very important. There are some men who leave their wives and children and it’s the wives who have to struggle to take care of everything and everyone. Then there are also men who don’t leave but who misuse money and don’t contribute to education or food. It’s very important for women to earn money so they can take of themselves and their families.

Fiji also has one of the world’s highest rates of violence against women. A 2011 national survey of more than 3000 households found that two-thirds of Fijian women experienced intimate partner violence. As a result, almost every day, one woman is left permanently disabled.

Economic empowerment is an essential part of reducing this shocking figure, and is also a specific aim of the Pacific Women program. For women and girls like Lusiana, studying at the Academy will empower them to support themselves. The students earn a trainee wage while practicing on clients, and there is a high demand for their skills on graduation.

In the years ahead, Lusiana sees herself working abroad and studying further.

“After I finish my studies, I would love to work in other Pacific islands, such as the Cook Islands. I want to earn money and hopefully save up to do a diploma. It would also be nice to become a trainer one day.”

Whatever Lusiana goes on to do, the future is looking beautiful.