Honiara, Solomon Islands: Women in the Tina River Hydropower Project catchment communities are once again coming together this week to celebrate International Women’s Day. They will spend time discussing and acknowledging the significant progress made to improve gender equality for rural women thanks of the Gender Action Plan (GAP) initiatives.
Working with the community for over 2 years, the Project’s Gender Action Plan team have regularly run activities for both women and men to promote equal opportunities and provide information on how to participate in and receive project benefits. This persistent effort despite recent challenges with COVID-19, continues to encourage women to participate in and benefit from this nation-building project.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme, “Break the Bias,” which is being recognized globally on March 8, aligns well with the activities and training already provided to women in the Project’s catchment communities who may have been marginalized due to stereotypes. Because of this work, more women are now equipped with relevant skills and knowledge since the implementation of the GAP activities in 2019. Valuable life-skill training, financial literacy, gender equality, hygiene and health are just some of the skills and knowledge that have been provided to women in rural Guadalcanal who are hungry for change.
As a part of the community discussions focused on International Women’s Day, women from the Verabakiri Community Women’s group in Bahomea shared stories on how they have use the knowledge and skills gained by attending GAP trainings and activities to support their families financially.
Brenda Lona, a secondary school teacher by profession and Chairlady of the Verabariki women’s group, said GAP activities and training have empowered women in the communities and improve their knowledge, particularly in terms of life-skill trainings.
“We are very fortunate to have this community hall as it allows women from other groups within the Mbahomea Zone 3 Women’s Association to come and use it for trainings. Our income is typically derived from venue hiring and catering, particularly when GAP organizes activities for us,” Ms. Lona stated.
For Euodia Vincent, Vice Chair of the Verabariki women’s organization , there were three main aspects of the GAP life skill training that really stood out. Baking and sewing, as well as financial literacy training to assist women with to save money, have had a huge impact on her day to day life.
“I’ve improved my baking skills and taken up sewing as a new interest. I’ve never sewn anything in my life, but now that I know how to, I really enjoy it and will use the skills I’ve learned to earn income and support my family,” she said.
Sharon Para, President of the Mbahomea Zone 3 Women’s Association, which oversees 22 women’s groups across the Bahomea region, voiced similar sentiments about how GAP trainings and activities have directly benefited her and her family. She has a passion to help ‘break bias’ that will help end discrimination and stereotypes on women and is pleased that this is the focus for this year’s International Women’s Day.
“I believe that the GAP activities for women within the Project catchment is already working to achieve what the theme is promoting,” Sharon said.
With this year’s theme of working towards a world free of stereotypes and discrimination that is diverse, equitable and inclusive, GAP activities will continue throughout 2022 and aim engage women and men in the communities by providing a continuous platform to voice not only concerns with gender issues, but also their hopes and dreams for change.
Working with the Community Benefit Sharing Program, the GAP team will this year be able to extend their reach to a younger generation of women with the SINU program that is placing students into technical training to enhance their opportunity for employment.
21-year-old Jocabeth Rapo, who hails from Tina village is pursuing a Certificate in Secretarial Studies which is funded by the Community Benefit Share Project partnership at the Solomon Islands National University. Jocabeth says “I am looking forward to working for the Tina Hydro Project once the Dam Site completes and I have my qualifications.”
She goes on to explain, “having a voice is a challenge for most girls in my village because men are considered superior to women in my culture. This thinking needs to change and will if more awareness is raised to help our men understand about gender issues and how it can hold women back.”
A half day forum is being organised by the Project Office GAP team this week for women and girls at Mataruka to mark the International Women’s Day.