A regional workshop involving representatives from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu began yesterday in Fiji where discussions will centre on improving growth opportunities for women business owners.

A recently released Household and Income Expenditure Survey 2008-2009 revealed that the number of women who were self employed had increased. It also suggested that initiatives to assist women in establishing small businesses is reaping results.

"At the Pacific Business Forum, members' called for a proactive approach to addressing issues of the need for increased market linkages, development of training and business development programmes to assist in the growth and development of businesses, review of government policies and regulations to accommodate this growth, and enhanced access to finance," a statement from the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation said.

"Accordingly, PIPSO in conjunction with the United Nations Development Programme - Pacific Centre, modified an initiative titled: "Pro-Poor Business (PPB) initiatives" to be implemented at sub-regional level in the Pacific region."

PIPSO chief executive Mereia Volavola explained that for the Melanesian Subregional countries, PIPSO in collaboration with the UNDP-Pacific Centre and Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat was hosting a workshop, which would focus on "Improving Growth Opportunities for Women Business Owner's".

"The workshop attempts to seek out opportunities for value adding and product & business development by exploring innovative programs and other support facilities on the opportunity to grow women entrepreneurs.

"The workshop provides a wonderful opportunity to address current barriers to the success for women business owners and a time to review the capabilities of the existing Women in Business Associations with a hope of identifying opportunities to strengthen them".