Francesca Semoso making it her business to empower women and youth

Francesca Semoso is making it her business to empower women and youth on Bougainville to build their entrepreneurship using simple innovative ideas and resources in their communities.

October 28, 2022

Ms Semoso.

Lydia Kaia | UNDP Papua New Guinea.

This legendary female leader from the coconut fringed beaches and crystal-clear turquoise waters of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville is a firm believer that information is power.

A former broadcaster and politician, Francesca has also worked with the Bougainville Women’s Federation to address violence against women and other issues affecting women on the island. She is an ardent advocate for more women in political leadership.

However, she confesses that she finds her current role as a business skills development trainer equally rewarding.

“It is a project that I have taken a personal touch to. This training is amazing for me as well. These are my people, I’ve lived with them and done a lot of work with them in terms of advocacy against violence, HIV and AIDS, on getting more women into politics so again coming back and talking to women about entrepreneurship and SME is great. I am a real supporter of SME because I’ve lived it. I got into Parliament, spoke about it and I continue to preach about it. Every day I see women turn something into cash so she can bring something back to the table. This is my passion and I know having come from a background that had to manage the little that we had to last.”

She says this role has given her a renewed purpose and direction for her community.

She’s teamed up with another well-known Bougainvillian woman leader, Roslyn Kenneth, a long-time social development practitioner and gender equality advocate.

The pair are from Think Place Australia, together they were able to bring together 46 aspiring entrepreneurs from neighbouring communities in Buka and Arawa to connect and accelerate innovative business idea’s at the first Entrepreneurship and Innovation Course supported by the United Nations Development Programme from 24-28 October 2022.

The participants attending the training include teachers, women leaders, and mostly young women and men from the of Hanahan, Malasang and Lonahang, and Arawa area in the Central Bougainville.

Anne Aru is a participant at the training in Buka. She is a baker by dawn and teacher by day. Her warmly baked scones topped with butter are a village favourite. She is rising to the challenge of improving her business and financial literacy skills at the training.

“I came here so I can learn to be a better businesswoman. I have had better days where I have sold more trays of scones but have been inconsistent with my sales. I hope at this training I can connect and learn from the trainers and other participants on how to improve my business, ‘’ said Anne.

Anne says time is of the essence, from the time she wakes up from the time she mixes the flour to waiting for the dough to rise and making fire, she uses this time to prepare for her lessons and for her daily chores.

Her big business plan is still a bun in the oven where she hopes one day afford and build proper ovens. She believes these training will set her on the right path.

Stella Larrin is a Human Rights Defender from Malasang 3 who together with her husband mould and sell concrete flowerpots. For her, she is not doing this for herself but for the survivors of domestic violence and other women require her support.

“I hope that I will be able to take away tips from this training to share with the women who come to me for help. I have been able to do this in the past where I have helped women start a savings account,” said Stella.

Stella believes these types of trainings are so crucial in our communities where many women are not so financially independent.

For James Mamak, he believes introducing the saving culture to his children early on is important.

His entire family have a product they sell at their home. His wife, children and him all sell something and keep a piggie bank to save money.

He hopes his training will add to what they already have.

He said teaching young people to raise money and create small business opportunities is so important right now given limited job opportunities amongst other social impediments especially the young people.

The training is set for participants to foster employment and entrepreneurial skills to be able to have access to utilise business development skills and services from the ‘Bougainville Innovation Hubs’.

Its aim is to develop and sustain viable micro, small and medium enterprises across Bougainville.

The ‘Bougainville Innovation Hubs’ Project is funded by the Government of Japan through a triparty agreement between UNDP and Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

Through the Innovation Hubs, women and youth from Bougainville can begin their entrepreneurial journey, improve their financial literacy, and look to resource themselves with the necessary knowledge and skills towards participating in a digitally focused future.

I am a real supporter of SME because I’ve lived it. I got into Parliament, spoke about it and I continue to preach about it. Every day I see women turn something into cash so she can bring something back to the table.
Francesca Semoso