Two young ladies at the helm of FCOSS Microfinance

Friday 23 September, 2016

Sarishma Maharaj and MilikaBaukitoga understand better than most the value of giving people the right advice and connecting them with resources to better their lives. Their employer, the Fiji Council of Social Services (FCOSS), aims to improve the livelihoods of grassroots Fijians by facilitating, promoting, supporting and furthering the knowledge of micro-business through its microfinance programme.

The two young ladies today feel proud and satisfied to be at the helm of one of Fiji's leading micro-finance facility. With over 5000 clients, most of the time they get exhausted by end of the day but keep going for what they have set themselves out to do.

A common spirit and energy runs among the two and the reasons are obvious. The duo started their career as volunteers. And both were also candidates of the Vodafone World of Difference (WoD) programme.

Both know the benefits and rewards of volunteering, so it was a natural progression for them to spend their term as Vodafone World of Difference recipients, inspiring those who needed micro business advice.

"I know the hardships people go through, I am one of them who have struggled," says Sharishma.
"I am so thankful to the Vodafone WoDprogramme; it gave me everything I needed to recollect my life."
Sharishma is the eldest in her family and was devastated when her father passed away in 2011 leaving two younger siblings in her care.

Recognising her volunteer efforts, Sarishma was picked by WoD in 2010 and 2011 to assist with the Financial Literacy Outreach Project at FCOSS microfinance programme. With a diploma in accounting, she successfully spread the gospel of the importance of saving to rural communities and informal settlements on the outskirts of urban areas and subsequently earned permanent employment with the organisation.

Milika Baukitoga was a volunteer Project Officer with the Vodafone-funded National Volunteer Centre, and got picked by WoD recognising her hands-on approach to social work. She taught income generating craftwork to women and youth in lower socio-economic situations so that they were able to earn a living with their talent.
Milika is currently the Field Officer at FCOSS microfinance programme and says that seeing the success of people in rural and remote areas gives her added inspiration to do more.

"My work has opened up my eyes to a completely different view and exposed me in a role where your work impacts people," says Milika.

"Sometimes we get caught up in things that actually don’t matter, rather than what is important in life around the basics in community, food, shelter, health, and love."

"At FCOSS microfinance, we help people through good advice and financial services so that their basics are sustainable," says Milika.

Milika's job requires travelling and talking to people and she is thankful for the training she received under WoD.

The duo believes that Vodafone Foundation's WoD programme really built their capacity and made them realise their passion.

"It’s about believing in yourself and sometimes you do need other people that can point out that you can do it. With Vodafone Foundation's WoD programme and the support they provide, it is achievable," said the two women.