IN the context of Solomon Islands and its trade and export industry, hearing a woman making a path for herself in this largely male-dominated sector is inspiring.
Rachel Rahii is a young and vibrant woman who deals mainly in exporting coral to be used as ornamental fixures in homes, as parts of lamps, as well as jewellery.
The harvested coral must first be endorsed by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR).
Armed with her license, Rachel's 'curio' coral specimens have found their way into markets in Australia, and even those as far away as the United States and Greece.
Rachel was selected to participate in training in Sydney, from 12-24 November 2017, paid for through the Australia Awards.
As a first of its kind, the short course was a Pacific pilot called Women Trading Globally and was organised by the Export Council of Australia, specific to exporters in the Pacific.
The training could not have happened at a more opportune time for her.
"The opportunity has assisted me greatly," she says.
"There was a lot of content that I had never really thought about in my business,” Rachel added.
“We were taught, for example, the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their relevance to trade.
“I am now thinking of ways of making my business more sustainable, and re-thinking ways my coral will be harvested in the long term."
Rachel also learned about good business practice for exporting.
The importance of having either verbal business agreements or simple contracts, for example, so she does not lose out if her customers do not complete payment on her shipments.
How to target different markets and how to properly research those markets, to leverage longer-term opportunities for her exports.
Rachel has used the training opportunity to exert increased control over other parts of her life and business.
She has big dreams, and the training in Sydney is helping to make these a reality.
"I am aiming to target other overseas markets - the European Union for one. I would like to secure buyers in Germany and France.
“The barriers to trade for me in these countries are language, especially translation of online platforms/websites.
“I've learnt from the training in Sydney, the importance of having high visibility to the right customers, and that would be through use of trade-specific websites such as Alibaba and eBay."
Those big dreams and a lot of hard work resulted in Rachel winning the Business Woman of the Year award at the Solomon Islands Women in Business Association (SIWIBA) Awards Night in December last year.
So how does SIWIBA fit into the picture?
SIWIBA is the peak body in Solomon Islands that represents women in business.
"Since I joined SIWIBA in 2015, they have become like a family to me.
“A family of women working with one vision: economic empowerment for each other and other women like them."
As an active member of SIWIBA, the network has built self-confidence and inner motivation in Rachel to strive for better things.
She is re-thinking her perspective on current packaging and storage of her products. She has future plans to set goals of how many containers she will export a month.
She is considering resourcing of staffing and assets to support the expansion of her business.
She plans to build on her current networks - and make more through SIWIBA's affiliations.
She feels that when she is more established, she can then venture into other networks, like the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI), of which SIWIBA is an affiliate member.
This is an important stride for women's economic empowerment in the Solomon Islands.
Defined in a recent Overseas Development Institute (ODI) report, women's economic empowerment is the process of achieving women's equal access to and control over economic resources, and ensuring they can use them to exert increased control over other areas of their lives.
Rachel's mindset shows that when presented with enough support and the right opportunities, young women like herself become empowered in their own right.
They become role models amongst their own peers, and show their communities that they are more than capable of becoming active contributors to society.
The Australian Government encourages other women to access opportunities available to them, whether it be through joining SIWIBA, which Australia is proud to sponsor, or through other networks or avenues, such as sending Rachel on this training opportunity in Sydney last year.
As Australia's High Commissioner so succinctly put it in his reflections on the 16 Days of Activism last year, "investing in women's economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender equality and inclusive economic growth".
– Source: Australia High Commission, Honiara