BY GEORGE MANFORD
IN response to the need for new approaches to address social issues, more than 200 young people from across Malaita province were in Auki to attend the Youth Peace building Innovation Forum last week.
As Solomon Islands have a young population with a median age of 19.7, youth is critical to reinforcing peace and achieving sustainable development in the country.
The three-day Youth Peace building Innovation Forum is aimed at helping young peace builders and change makers develop solutions to challenges in their communities through social entrepreneurship and innovation.
In opening the forum, Deputy Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said the path to making an impact on society is mired in obstacles.
“Never give up. I encourage you to develop a warrior attitude in your journey to success,” Sogavare said.
He also shared his own struggles and achievements in becoming a national leader.
“If you’re a school dropout and feel inadequate, you just need to look at the man standing in front of you now and talking to you — welcome to my world,” he said.
“This man dropped out of school at Bita’ama not completing Form 4.”
The forum in Malaita is the first provincial follow-up to the inaugural Youth Peace building Innovation Forum held in Honiara last year. The UN Peace building Fund (UNPBF) project, jointly implemented by UNDP and UN Women, organised the forum in partnership with the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs and the Youth Division of the Malaita Provincial Government.
To highlight entrepreneurship, 2018 Samoa Youth Co: Lab winner Esmeralda Lo Tam explained how personal setbacks and passion ultimately helped her create an athletic equipment and apparel business.
She encouraged participants, including 11 teams who will pitch their social innovations on Thursday for a chance to win seed funding, not to forget their vision.
“In your homes and your villages, your families, no matter how far you go in life, always remember why you started,” Ms Lo Tam said.
“You’re here for yourselves, you’re here for your family; most of all you’re here to do your little piece for your country, and also in the wider picture, for the Pacific.”
Coordinator of the Young Entrepreneurs Council Solomon Islands, John Wopereis, spoke about how youth can help revitalise the country through social enterprises and small businesses.
Participants also heard from provincial government officials on the importance of crafting policies that support youth development and empowerment.
The discussion followed the provincial launch of the Solomon Islands National Youth Policy 2017-2030 and the Strategic Framework for Youth Development and Empowerment in Solomon Islands, which were launched in Honiara last month.
In her remarks at the opening of the forum, UNDP Solomon Islands Country Manager Azusa Kubota emphasized the need for stakeholders to continue collaborating to encourage youth to become a source of peace and development solutions.
“The three-day forum itself will not solve all the challenges that young people face,” Ms. Kubota said.
“It is an important step, however, to illustrate their achievements and their potential and to inspire innovative solutions to longstanding issues.”
Solomon Airlines, Heritage Park Hotel and Bemobile supported the Youth Peace building Innovation Forum, which will close on Thursday.
The UNPBF project aims to support peaceful and inclusive transition in Solomon Islands, jointly implemented by UNDP and UN Women in close collaboration with the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace and the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs.