WOMEN leaders representing all 14 constituencies in Malaita province and women’s organisations in Auki on Thursday shared their recommendations on key provincial women’s priorities that affect development and peace with members of Parliament.
The dialogue between the 20 Malaita women and eight MPs representing Malaita province aimed to highlight the issues and concerns of women in Malaita to ensure influence, information and resources are targeted at women’s empowerment and development initiatives.
“I see this national dialogue as a step forward for a prosperous Malaita,” participant and President of the Auki Market Vendors Association Janet Ramo said.
“It has brought us face-to-face with our MPs to urge them to hear the concerns of women from the grassroots. It is a positive and direct approach for them to seriously consider the needs of women in the rural areas.”
UN Women facilitated the dialogue in partnership with the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs (MWYCFA) and the Ministry of National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace (MNURP) through the UN Peacebuilding Fund (UNPBF) project as part of the implementation of the Malaita Women’s Empowerment and Development (MWED) Policy, which was launched in March.
In opening the dialogue, the Minister of Women, Youth and Sports of the Malaita provincial government, Rose Liata, presented the seven policy outcomes.
“The policy recognises that investing in women’s empowerment is vital to improving the wellbeing of families and communities as well as achieving gender equality. This means that strategies must recognise the need for women and men to work together to address attitudinal and institutional barriers to women’s empowerment and development,” Liata said.
“The MWED Policy provides a framework for all Malaitan women and men to embrace their development and contribute to the growing economy of Malaita.”
The women representatives drew on experiences in their communities to suggest policy interventions. They addressed the outcome areas, which include improved women’s access to land, water and sanitation; improved economic status of women; and building peaceful communities and acknowledging women’s role in peacebuilding and the preservation of cultural identity.
The MPs responded to each intervention, often citing examples from their own constituencies, and proposed ways to make them more achievable.
In his closing remarks, Prime Minister and MP for Small Malaita Rick Houenipwela said the participating MPs share the women representatives’ desire to progress the interventions.
“This is not just your agenda. This is the agenda of our communities, not only of Malaita but of the whole country. We want to make something that is good for all of us, and of course, you Malaita women representatives have taken the initiative to come and see us at the national Parliament to speak with us about this,” he said.
UN Women’s Solomon Islands Country Programme Coordinator, Alvina Erekali, highlighted that the issues Malaita women face are complex and can only be addressed through collaborative efforts that include support from members of the provincial and national governments.
“It is time we connect and raise the profile of the untapped resources — and I’m referring to the women right in front of us — of marginalized women, especially from the rural places, and empower them as game-changers with regards to the development aspirations of Solomon Islands,” Ms Erekali said.
The Malaita women’s dialogue with MPs was made possible through the UNPBF project, which is aiming 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.
–UN JOINT PRESENCE PRESS