Sashi Kiran is the trailblazing founder and chief executive officer of a grassroots not-for-profit that provides economic opportunities for underserved communities in Fiji.
She started Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises & Development, or FRIEND as it is better known, after Fiji’s 2000 political crisis to create income generating opportunities for women and men from rural and peri-urban settlements and villages, youth and people with special needs; and to strengthen relations between Fiji’s two main communities.
“The Pacific region’s bountiful resources and traditions of craft, sustainable agriculture and food preservation can help provide food security and steady sources of income for poverty alleviation” explains Sashi Kiran to the SPC.
In the 17 years since, FRIEND has emerged as one of the most successful livelihood success stories in the region and has been offering support to other organisations involved in livelihood work in other Pacific Island countries.
In Fiji, FRIEND is perhaps best known for its long-selling line of supermarket chutneys, which are made by women in rural communities from raw ingredients bought from small-holder farmers.
The not-for-profit has since diversified into a range of other products such as flours made from local root crops, greeting cards made by people with disabilities and herbal teas that benefit grassroots farmers.
The organisation has also expanded its scope of work in recent years to include disaster response and rehabilitation as well as trauma healing and peace building work.
In recognition of her sizable contributions to development in outlying areas where few opportunities exist and for making an impact on the lives of underserved communities, Sashi is increasingly called upon by regional and international development organisations to lend her expertise.
She has worked with the Commonwealth Foundation on a regional report on citizens and good governance and served on the executive council of international NGO CIVICUS as well as Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education.
More recently Sashi served on the Commonwealth Elections Observer Team for the 2017 elections in Papua New Guinea.
The 70 Inspiring Pacific Women campaign has been produced by the Pacific Community (SPC) in partnership with Australian Aid and Pacific Women. The campaign marks the 70th anniversary of SPC, and leads up to the 13th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women and 6th Meeting of Ministers for Women in Suva (Fiji) from 2nd to 5th October 2017.