To celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, The World Bank spoke to some of the region’s young and emerging female leaders for their take on the future of their countries and the major challenges ahead.
Asita Devi Deo lives in Suva, Fiji with her husband and family.
She’s the co-founder and owner of Fastkil Pest Control Services and has won numerous awards for her entrepreneurial skills, including Fiji’s Aspiring Woman of the Year in 2013. Asita has become something of a role model for many young women in Fiji and the Pacific Islands who are aiming to break into male-dominated industries.
“My company’s name is Fastkil Pest Control Services. It started out in Suva and just recently I have started two other branches in Lautoka and Labasa. We employ about 25 workers now. We work on all types of pests that we have in Fiji, as well as the health and hygiene side with sanitary bins, washrooms products, toilet paper, hand soap and other products for the washroom services that customers need.
I’m the only woman in the pest control industry. When I started my pest control projects with my company, people said, “oh, this lady can’t do it.” But I always told myself, “just ignore it.” It was all the sacrifices we – my husband and I – made together that’s made the difference. It’s the support of the family that’s the main thing; if the support is there then I think every woman can be a successful one.”
What sort of opportunities do you see for Pacific women to be acknowledged as entrepreneurs?
Every woman plays a role in a society, so whether she is a housewife to an executive; every woman plays a major role. And when women work, they should be recognized for the effort and sacrifices they have made to become somebody in life.
I would also say that family support needs to be there. If any woman wants to achieve new levels in her life, support from family and friends is crucial. In my case, my husband has been the biggest support; he has supported me a lot.
The government IS supporting women now, which we didn’t have for many years. The idea was that we all used to stay home, cook the food and that was it. But now the government is recognizing women’s value in business, in government and anywhere.
Where do you see yourself and your business in 25 years?
There are currently no formal regulations for the handling of chemicals in Fiji. And there are serious risks in this industry – such as the potential for children to drink chemicals – so we need to tighten the security of chemical usage and chemical handling here.
So that’s my idea for the future, and we are trying to negotiate with the government to bring those standards up here.
And here in Fiji we have institutions that deal with the pests for farmers, but we have very few organizations in Fiji which provide proper training on how to control pests. So we need a training process for the industry so we can have equal access to the knowledge in and for Fiji, rather than needing to go abroad for studies, which is very costly.
What does the future look like for Fiji? What’s possible?
Our future is promising. In this industry there are a lot of developments taking place, so there will be more investments coming into Fiji.
And the climate is the other thing; climate change is affecting the environment too and the number of insects is rising. So while it is a boom for us, we’re also trying to cut down on chemicals and using organic ingredients to combat insects in Fiji.