Setting up an organisation specifically to support Tongan women in business was “a challenging and exciting journey culminating in the establishment of Women in Sustainable Enterprises (WISE),” President Robina Nakao told the first Annual General Meeting of WISE Tonga Inc recently.
Robina says WISE was first conceived in 2010 at a workshop on 'Economic Opportunities for Pacific Women in Business', in Vanuatu. The following year the WISE initiative was officially launched with a business showcase market day for the inaugural membership of around 140 Tongan women in business.
Since then, donor partners had agreed to support WISE programmes in various ways. There was confirmation of a training allocation of $20,000 for WISE members from the Tonga Business Enterprise Centre (TBEC) a sustainable economic initiative largely funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme, and in late February WISE recruited Naomi First, Business Development Adviser, through the Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) New Zealand.
New Zealand Aid Programme officials briefed Naomi on New Zealand’s assistance to Tonga and provided background information to assist her in her VSA assignment. VSA New Zealand, which also receives significant support from the New Zealand Aid Programme, has confirmed a long term commitment to WISE in terms of ongoing volunteer personnel, sending a second volunteer to Tonga in April.
166 women have now registered with WISE. The women make up a diverse membership from both the formal and informal sectors; business leaders, home-based entrepreneurs and future business people.